El Clasico: 'Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are back to their best'
But should Barca recall Neymar? And how should Real respond if Benzema isn't fit?
Last Updated: 22/03/14 1:46pm
Messi's talents are wasted in a team that doesn't give him the ball, that doesn't open up space, that doesn't run in behind the defenders, that doesn't pressure and steal the ball early.
Recently it's as if Messi has been switching off in games, frustrated by a team that wasn't working as it should, but when he feels at the hub of things - as he was at the weekend - he looks a different player. And with Real Madrid coming up, there couldn't be a better time for him to be back to his best.
I was interested to see Alexis Sanchez and Pedro play on Sunday - and even more interested by the reaction of Gerardo Martino.
After the game Martino's words came across a little bit like someone saying 'cheers guys, thanks for your help; you are the perfect players because you give us what we want - but I've got a different team in mind for El Clasico'.
In theory that would seem to suggest a recall for Neymar and Cesc Fabregas, which would make Barcelona a team of four midfielders again - the players' preferred choice for the big games.
There is a something of a compromise between the team Tito Vilanova wanted at the beginning of the season and the team that the players feel more comfortable with because, as I've been saying all season, this is essentially a team made for Xavi. That means that he's got to play in a certain way.
If Barcelona want to change the way they play, then they need different players. A team made for Xavi is more comfortable with more possession and that's what Barcelona will have against Real Madrid. So that's what I think they will go with.
But if they do go down that road it means they have less depth and it is absolutely essential that Barcelona get Neymar more active because at the moment the striker is struggling to play the way he did before Messi got injured.
A winger needs to have enough discipline to run both ways, forward and backwards on the pitch, but Neymar doesn't seem to have that tactical discipline anymore. He looks distracted.
So should Pedro play instead of Neymar? Perhaps - but I'd suggest that the way that Martino was talking indicates that he'll go with Neymar.
I hope for our sake that Karim Benzema recovers from the leg injury he sustained in a collision with Cristiano Ronaldo in the 1-0 win over Malaga.
It was one of those knocks that we call 'bocadillos' - literally a sandwich - which resulted in a dead leg and I expect him to be ok for El Clasico.
If he isn't fit, though, it will be interesting to see how Carlo Ancelotti sets up his team because Morata is really the only number nine available.
I feel that Morata has been given enough opportunities to show that he belongs in the first XI but it's clear that Ancelotti believes he hasn't done enough.
Morata is not playing regularly and is now looking for a way out. He's got an agreement with Arsenal BUT that will mean nothing unless Arsenal and Real Madrid agree a fee; and Arsenal will not be the only team that wants him.
So it may well have been Jese who came in if Benzema is ruled out - but he also suffered an injury in the Champions League win over Schalke. I spoke recently to Alberto Toril, who until recently was the manager of Real Madrid B. He reckons that along with Neymar, Jese will be the top player in the world in three or four years. So let's keep an eye on that!
Xabi Alonso had some tough words with the forwards, especially Gareth Bale and Isco, after the Malaga match because they didn't track back enough and the team was effectively split in two.
After the match some of the players said they'd never run so much in a match - at least not for quite some time!
I spoke to Paul Clement this week and he, like most people, is seeing the team progress in a certain way with Sami Khedira in the team - that is with Angel di Maria wide.
This is a team that has finally found a formation and a level way of playing and when the team plays well, the individuals play well.
Cristiano is back to his best after the injury in November; it has taken him some time to get there but he is there now, while Benzema is playing wonderfully. It is not all about goals with him; every time the ball passes by him, the attack improves.
It is wonderful to see; he feels confident, he's sharper because he's lost weight. He reckons the influence of assistant Zinedine Zidane has been massive and, all in all, I think he's playing his best football. He scored a crucial goal for France as well, in the play-offs.
Interestingly, he's got a year-and-a-half left on his contract and he doesn't want to rush to renew it just yet.
That said Luka Modric is probably the player of the season right now given the way that he rules the midfield, with Xabi Alonso almost taking a step back to be more defensive.
This is a team that is as good defensively as the Jose Mourinho team was last season and is better in attack; they can play with the ball, which is what all of the media and fans claimed they should be doing last season.
So how will El Clasico go? I think there will be one clear winner - that is Atletico Madrid, because I can see Sunday's match ending in a draw.
Watch Real Madrid take on Barcelona live on Sky Sports 1 HD this Sunday at 7.30pm.