4 key battles that could decide Real Madrid vs Barcelona in El Clasico

  • Real Madrid face Barcelona in El Clasico on Sunday evening
  • Carlo Ancelotti's side aiming to close in on the title with victory against their rivals
  • Both sides have some exceptional talents that can make the difference
Real Madrid host Barcelona this weekend in La Liga
Real Madrid host Barcelona this weekend in La Liga / Yasser Bakhsh/GettyImages

Real Madrid can take an enormous stride towards another La Liga title on Sunday evening, but they will have to make it past their fierce rivals Barcelona.

Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid currently lead the table by eight points but defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend would reduce their advantage to five points with six games to play. While a loss at the hands of their Clasico foes would not be fatal, victory would all but seal their crown.

The race may be out of Barcelona's hands but they will want to put some pressure on the capital side. On a personal level, it will be Xavi's final Clasico as Barca boss - well, at least for the time being.

Here are four key battles that could decide a crucial Clasico.

Vinicius Junior vs Ronaldo Araujo

Vinicius Junior, Ronald Araujo
Ronald Araujo endured a difficult evening midweek / Alex Caparros/GettyImages

There were contrasting fortunes for Madrid and Barcelona midweek. The former booked their spot in the Champions League semi-final, while the latter dropped out of the competition after capitulating against Paris-Saint Germain, and it was Ronald Araujo who was largely to blame for Barca's demise.

The Uruguayan defender's last-man challenge was met with a deserved red card in Catalonia, with Araujo's rashness proving costly for Barca. He was even dug out by teammate Ilkay Gundogan after the match.

Therefore, the prospect of facing an in-form Vinicius Junior will not be too appetising for the Barca man, who will have his hands full with the Brazilian.

Now playing as a centre-forward under Ancelotti, Vinicius Junior will want to be as direct as possible up against a Barcelona defence short on confidence, and he may get some joy out of the hit-and-miss Araujo. Given he scored a hat-trick against Barca earlier this season, he is certainly one to watch on Sunday.

Ferland Mendy vs Lamine Yamal

Lamine Yamal
Lamine Yamal is already so significant for Barca / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Despite being just 16, Lamine Yamal has already become integral to Barcelona. The tricky teenager is now a key creator for Xavi's side and his raw speed will make him an almighty threat to Madrid's backline on Sunday.

The man tasked with stifling him will be Ferland Mendy, who was forced into a relentless 120-minute slog with Man City midweek. Yamal will be aiming to exploit any fatigue felt by the Frenchman, but the Real Madrid left-back is usually a man that Ancelotti can rely on during the big occasions.

Jude Bellingham vs Ilkay Gundogan

Jude Bellingham
Jude Bellingham was the match-winner in the last league Clasico / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Jude Bellingham was the deciding factor in the first La Liga Clasico of the campaign back in October. An astonishing brace led Madrid to victory and the Englishman will be expected to act as a bridge between attack and midfield on Sunday, looking to capitalise on the lack of an orthodox defensive midfielder for Barca.

Ilkay Gundogan will not only have to act as a playmaker for Barcelona, making positive runs beyond the forward line, he will have to keep an extremely close defensive eye on Bellingham too, with no natural holding player available to keep tabs on the Madrid star.

Toni Kroos vs Pedri

It will be experience vs youth when Toni Kroos faces Pedri / Yasser Bakhsh/GettyImages

There will be a battle of two sensational passers at the Bernabeu on Sunday afternoon, as the experience of Madrid's Toni Kroos comes up against the youthful energy of Barca's Pedri. Both players will be key in dictating play for their respective sides, but it may be a battle that only one can win.

Kroos and Pedri both have the capacity to unlock opposition defences with their playmaking qualities and controlling the flow of the game in the centre of the pitch may prove crucial - especially for Barcelona given their midfield struggles this season.