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Barcelona defender Ronald Araújo on Real Madrid attacker Vinícius: “He’s the number one”

Araújo and Vinícius are likely to come directly up against one another in El Clásico at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Araújo and Vinícius are likely to come directly up against one another in El Clásico at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Uruguayan defender Ronald Araújo has been a key player in a Barcelona backline which has only conceded only eight goals in 25 LaLiga matches this season, and just one at Camp Nou in 12 games. Three of those eight goals came in a 3-1 Clásico defeat to Real Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in October, a match which Araújo missed through injury and in which Vinícius Júnior tormented Sergi Roberto, playing at right-back for Barça.

Since then, the Uruguay international has been earmarked for a very specific role against Los Blancos, that of keeping the Brazilian quiet, which he has done to perfection in a 3-1 Spanish Super Cup victory in January and a 1-0 victory in the first leg of the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey at the start of this month. On Sunday, it will almost certainly be a case of ‘same again’ for Araújo, who nevertheless was full of praise for his Clásico adversary in an interview with ESPN.

Real Madrid winger Vinícius Júnior is “the number one attacking player in the world”

Vinicius. “At the moment, I think Vinícius is the number one attacking player in the world when it comes to one-on-one situations. He’s a very good player, he’s a difference-maker. Playing against him is difficult, obviously. But I work hard to be able to do my best in matches like this. I’m glad things are going well”.

Barcelona’s progress. “The team is doing well, I am doing well and really looking forward to playing in such an important game. I think we have to treat it that way (like a cup final) because it’s a very important game and we know that we can open up a big gap with not many games left to play in LaLiga. Now we are seeing the results of everything we have been working on. Xavi arrived in the middle of last season and when you’re playing a lot you can’t work on a lot of things. I think that we were able to work on our defending a lot in pre-season”.

El Clásico victory “a turning point”

The 4-0 win at the Bernabéu. “It was very important for us because we had been having quite tough time, and we had lost several games against Madrid. I think that game was a bit of a turning point, it was us saying ‘here we are, we’re on the way back’.

Jules Koundé and Andreas Christensen: “They are both very good players who came here to help us, and they bring a lot to the team. You can see the defensive solidity we have, which is important because in the end it helps us win games and it was something that we had to improve from last season. We are strong in defence in general with Eric (García), Marcos (Alonso) and the full-backs. We complement each other very well, that’s the most important thing”.

On-field communication. “I like to talk, yes, because it is a way, especially for me, to stay focused and I also know that it helps the team a lot. I think players need to show their leadership by communicating and encouraging the team, it’s important”.

Araújo’s rise to the top

A meteoric rise. “It all happened very quickly. Thank God it was a radical change, I jumped several steps of the ladder, coming to Europe and joining Barcelona having been playing at a much lower level. I’m glad things are going well. Obviously, when you come to a team like Barça, it’s hard at first, especially with the unique philosophy that the club has, but hard work brings good results and we’re seeing that now”.


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