El Clasico: Barcelona and Real Madrid's ideal starting XIs
- It's El Clasico this weekend, so let's discuss the ideal starting XIs for both Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Barcelona get ready to welcome Real Madrid to Camp Nou this weekend for the most hotly-anticipated fixture in La Liga's diary, and it's shaping up to be a cracking occasion, as ever. Uppermost in everyone's mind is the 4-0 victory Luis Enrique's men managed to conjure in the reverse clash at the Santiago Bernabeu, so there will be a theme of revenge surrounding this one, for sure.
However, the hosts are the undoubted favourites and they should feel confident going into this encounter.
A lot will hinge on how each begins. Start poorly and the opposition will smell blood and go for the jugular, so it's vital that both managers select the right starting XI. With that, let's take a look at who should feature from the get-go and point out why.
Claudio Bravo: We shouldn't see any surprises for Barca's choice of goalkeeper. Bravo is their no.1 'keeper for league matches and he's been doing well so far this campaign.
As ever, he will need to be on the lookout for long-range efforts from Cristiano Ronaldo et al as well as looking to marshall what can sometimes prove a shaky defence, and if he does these to his usually high standards, he'll be tough to beat.
Jordi Alba: Early reports from various sections of the media suggested that Alba was set to miss the weekend's big derby after suffering pain in one of his ankles while on international duty, but ESPN's Dermot Corrigan has since calmed many fears with news that the stampeding left back should be fine to face Madrid at home.
Javier Mascherano: Forming one half of Enrique's first-choice, centreback pairing is Mascherano who survived the international break unscathed. The Argentina international has been a rock at the heart of Blaugrana's defence and will prove crucial in keeping a potentially fluid Madrid attack at bay.
His passion and leadership alone would be a great asset for any side, but his reading of the game is often the springboard for many of Barca's fantastic counter-attacks.
Gerard Pique: The other half of the very important central defensive partnership is obviously Pique. So many purr over the offensive genius of Barca's front three but the 29-year-old is equally as important.
He's a symbol for Catalan independence and his presence for this match means everything to the fans. Of course, his defending can be a little erratic at times, but he has experience and passion – nobody wants to beat Madrid more than him and that will mean a lot.
Dani Alves: Coming off the back of a goal-scoring performance for Brazil against Paraguay in their feisty South American World Cup qualifier, Alves will be content with his own personal display. Showing spirit and fight, his late, late equaliser was a goal of real quality and it underlined his brilliance.
Sergi Roberto wouldn't be a bad shout at right back for Barca but Alves gets the nod for his attacking flair, though they'll hope he doesn't forget his defensive duties.