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Real Madrid v Barcelona: Has Neymar been missed at Camp Nou?

Omnisport
NEWS
234   //    21 Dec 2017, 17:30 IST
Neymar - cropped
Neymar in action for Barcelona against Real Madrid in pre-season

Neymar's €220million move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain took football finance to new frontiers and also robbed El Clasico of one of its great talking points.

The battle between 'MSN' and 'BBC' had become woven into the fabric of European football's headline fixture, but it shall be no more - unless Manuel Neuer pitches up to play in attack at Camp Nou (which wouldn't be the maddest thing the German No. 1 has done).

On the face of it Barcelona, pipped to the title by Zinedine Zidane's side last term, are coping just fine without their Brazilian star. They sit 11 points clear of Madrid atop LaLiga before Saturday's trip to the Santiago Bernabeu.

But how has Barca's game changed since Neymar's departure? How are Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez coping without their cohort? 

We examined the Opta data...


THE NUMBERS

At the same stage of last season, Barcelona trailed Real Madrid in LaLiga by three points - a deficit they could not make up - but Ernesto Valverde has worked wonders so far this term.

Barca remain unbeaten in LaLiga before they head to the Bernabeu, winning 13 of their 16 matches this season, so it would appear that Neymar's absence has been negligent.

With Neymar, Barca had scored 63 goals in 24 games at this stage last term - this season they have played two more games, but scored three fewer times.

In possession of a third star striker, Barca's 22.78 per cent shooting accuracy outstrips the 18.85 that they have managed this season, with Suarez in particular struggling.


MESSI MAGIC STILL SHINES

Suarez has scored four in his last three league outings, but had only managed five in 10 previously.

That has heaped all the more burden on Messi, but the Argentine has naturally shone.

The masterful Messi has 14 goals to his name, as well as five assists.


CAN BARCA KEEP IT UP?

It looks like Barca have indeed moved on from Neymar. Valverde has often paired Suarez and Messi in attack with the much-derided Paulinho operating as an effective box-to-box operator behind them as Barca shift away from their trademark 4-3-3 ideals.

Where Barca could previously rely on Neymar to unlock a door, they are now subject to more 'Messidependencia' than ever before.

It was only a chipped pass that would have landed on a sixpence that let Jordi Alba in to deny Valencia a win recently and a 0-0 draw against Juventus meandered meaninglessly with Messi benched for the most part.

Ousmane Dembele has been robbed of the chance to prove himself by injury, but a sense prevails that Barca will need to fill Neymar's boots to ease the burden on their attacking leader.

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