In the big game between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, there will be a young battle for control of the midfield as well as duels in the dugouts and between the posts.
This Sunday’s ElClasico will pit FC Barcelona and Real Madrid against each other once again at the Spotify Camp Nou. It’ll be a decisive match for both clubs and it will produce many individual duels worth paying attention to, both on the pitch and in the dugouts.
From the contests in midfield to the tactical chess match on the benches, several of the most important figures at both clubs will be going head-to-head.
GAVI VS AURÉLIEN TCHOUAMÉNI
The battle for the midfield will be marked by youth, as an 18-year-old and a 23-year-old will produce one of the most interesting and physical duels in ElClasico. Gavi, FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder, makes up for his lack of height with aggression and bravery, allowing him to cover a large portion of the pitch. He is the player who commits the second-most fouls in LaLiga Santander, with 54, which speaks volumes about his intensity.
Tchouaméni, who is Real Madrid's leader in recoveries with 28 balls recovered, will be up against him on the other side. The midfielder also contributes in attack, where he already has three goal assists, the last one going to Éder Militão in the last matchday against RCD Espanyol.
XAVI VS CARLO ANCELOTTI
The latest edition of the tactical duel between Xavi and Ancelotti will be taking place too, after they have already faced each other several times this season. There will be a couple more matches in which they will cross swords again, and it’s increasingly fascinating since they are getting to know each other well and they both understand how the other side likes to play.
This tactical battle comes after they recently met in ElClasico in the Copa del Rey at the Bernabéu, a match in which FC Barcelona posted their lowest possession percentage since records began. Yet, despite that poor stat, Los Blaugrana won that day. Both coaches will be studying that game to try to change what happened, as Xavi will want more of the ball and Ancelotti will want a different result to the 1-0 loss suffered at the Bernabéu.
MARC-ANDRÉ TER STEGEN VS THIBAUT COURTOIS
Two of the best goalkeepers in the world will also face each other in this ElClasico. Ter Stegen is on a great run in terms of goals conceded, one that could see him make LaLiga Santander history. Paco Liaño and Jan Oblak share the honour of being the goalkeepers with the lowest goals conceded per game over the course of a full season, with 0.47 per match, but FC Barcelona’s German goalkeeper has so far conceded just eight goals in 25 matches, giving him an average of 0.32 goals conceded per game.
In the opposite goal frame will be an old acquaintance in Courtois, who is also averaging less than a goal conceded per game on average, with 0.87 per match. His impressive saves have helped Real Madrid this season, week in week out.
ALEJANDRO BALDE VS FEDE VALVERDE
While many eyes will be on the duel between Vinícius and Ronald Araújo, there will be another fast-paced one on the other flank in this ElClasico. The 19-year-old left-back Balde, who has established himself as a starter at Barça, and the 24-year-old Valverde, who is now one of Real Madrid's most important players in the pecking order, will be up against each other.
They are two of the most explosive and paciest players across these two squads so, if the game gets bogged down on the opposite flank, it wouldn’t be surprising if their two coaches try to switch play to their side to test out this duel between the Spaniard and the Uruguayan.
ÓSCAR HERNÁNDEZ VS DAVIDE ANCELOTTI
Not only will the duel between the head coaches be interesting, but the one between their assistant coaches will be too, especially since they’re both family members. Oscar Hernández is the brother of FC Barcelona coach Xavi, while Davide Ancelotti is the son of Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti.
These two right-hand men are relatives, confidants and assistants all at the same time, and the head coaches will lean on them to devise strategies ahead of the game. They might ultimately make decisions that could change the outcome of this ElClasico.