Five Madridistas who need to step up to plate in Barcelona
There are five figures who can redeem themselves against Barcelona.
Real Madrid head to Barcelona sitting eighth in the league, with just two wins from their last ten games, and a draw or loss at the Camp Nou would put them in a position that would have seemed unthinkable when Julen Lopetegui took over 139 days ago. In Europe, Los Blancos haven't had any issues, winning four of their last five games, but Lopetegui’s challenge was to improve things domestically and that has not happened. His future as Madrid coach could depend on what happens at the Camp Nou today.
"Everything depends on Ramos at Madrid. When he's on top, the team is on top. When he stands out he's amazing, but Sergio hasn’t been there," said ex-Madridista Christian Karembeu this week. Ramos’ power in the dressing room and influence on how Madrid perform cannot be understated. The captain has not been himself of late, and clear evidence of that was when he took his frustrations out on 21-year-old Sergio Reguilon in training before the game against Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday. If Madrid are going to win today, the need their captain to hold his nerve and be on the top of his game.
“I need to play more,” said the Gareth Bale after the Champions League final in Kiev. And Cristiano Ronaldo’s unexpected departure has given him that opportunity. The Welshman has played 200 games for Madrid, scoring 92 goals and providing 61 assists. It’s a decent record, but his record against Barcelona has been poor. With just two goals in ten games, he has good days and bad against the Blaugrana. Today, he needs to step up to the plate and lead Madrid from the front.
Without Messi and Ronaldo, Benzema will be the player that has scored the most goals in EL Clásico out of all of those that will walk onto the field of the Camp Nou today. The Frenchman has scored nine in 26 games against Barcelona. But lately he has struggled to find the net, and before his goal against Plzen on Wednesday, he had gone eight games without putting his name on the score sheet. Like Ramos, Bale and Lopetegui, today is his chance to redeem himself.
Thibaut Courtois arrived at Madrid this summer for 35 million euros and has so far been Lopetegui’s choice ahead of Keylor Navas for domestic games. The Belgian has not been bad, but he has not been the miracle goalkeeper Madrid were searching for either. He has conceded seven goals in eight games and has only managed to keep a clean-sheet on two occasions. In his last game against Barcelona with Chelsea in the quarter finals of the Champions League, he conceded three goals – two of which went under his legs. Today he needs to be much better.
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