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Vinicius and Messi steal the limelight



In a different era, Barça’s fear of Gento was well documented. The murmurs that rippled through cinemas – in those days in Spain they were the NO-DO (News and Documentaries) screenings – showing images of a Barça-Madrid game were striking because you could see Barcelona retreat when Gento received the ball. In this period Barcelona coach Helenio Herrera deployed three players, Olivella, Segarra and Rodri, to close down Gento and push him inside to nullify his threat. I’m recalling it now as Barcelona get ready to employ a similar tactic with Vinicius, although in this case they will look to push him out wide using Sergi Roberto and Semedo.

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Vinicius and Messi

 I’m not suggesting that Vinicius is now what Gento was then – we’ll have to see how far he can go – but the fact that Barça are thinking about setting up defensively already shows him respect. The Brazilian has only just become a starter but in each game he has consistently been a danger, running at opposition defences, pushing the play back, causing alarm, creating chances either he or one of his team-mates scores. I know this is a bold statement, but his numbers are already on a par with Messi’s at the same age – of course, I don’t think he’ll reach such heights, but we are looking at a player with huge potential, one of the sharpest focal points this evening. Naturally, the other one is Messi.

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Supporters and fixtures

Solari called on the Madrid supporters to play their part ahead of the game. “The fans are the only definite starters,” he said with a certain air of populism, before batting away a question about Bale: “We cannot focus on aspects that are incidental”. The Madrid boss deflected these burning issues like Movistar and LaLiga did on Tuesday when repeatedly asked by AS journalist Javier Hernández who had drawn up the fixture list and why Madrid have had one day fewer to rest than Barcelona in both legs. I’m not sure if there is any wrongdoing here, but there has definitely been an oversight that has riled Madridistas. Nevertheless, when the ball first rolls from the centre circle it will all be forgotten.