Keys to El Clasico

Where will Saturday's game be won and lost?

Last Updated: 19/04/12 9:30am

Who will be the most important player on the pitch when Barcelona and Real Madrid square off in Saturday's Clasico?

Barcelona v Real Madrid
6.30pm, Sat, Sky Sports 1 HD
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Will the flair of Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi settle the tie or will one of the supporting cast snatch the headlines? Will the game be decided by a weak spot in the defence of either team?

Ahead of the clash, Revista de La Liga gathered together its panel of experts - Guillem Balague, Graham Hunter, Terry Gibson and Gerry Armstrong - to talk tactics ahead of the game.

And they highlighted several players who could be crucial to the outcome - for both the right and wrong reasons...

Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo

GERRY: Last season he had a wonderful season and got 40 league goals. He's already on 41 this season, so he's pushed the bar up again. He scores all different types of goals as well - he's got two good feet, he's brilliant in the air and he's superb on the counter attack. He's a striker now, but he can play wide left or wide right; he doesn't stay there. He moves and finds space and he creates goals for other people; he's a brilliant counter-attack player.

GUILLEM: I think what he's doing has got more value than Messi. What Messi's got behind him is a World-Cup-winning team that makes things easier for him. He makes them better as well and he's extraordinary. However, Ronaldo is surrounded by good players, but not the same kind of style or team effort that you see at Barcelona. He's almost had to do it on his own. Real Madrid are very direct at the moment, they get the ball to him, he takes the free-kicks, the penalties and he tries to make goals out of nothing that win games for Real Madrid. In a way he's got more value than Messi.

Karim Benzema

GERRY: He's greased lightning at the moment. He lost five or six kilos pre-season and he's the second top goalscorer behind Ronaldo, who's having another magnificent season. He scores all different types of goals and he's so sharp in front of goal it's untrue.

GUILLEM: He's one who appears in the big games, something that, for instance, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo have been accused of not doing. Benzema and Ronaldo is a partnership that they both prefer. They do link very well, whereas Higuain is more of an individual player.


GRAHAM: We all know that Pep's told Barcelona to target him. He's a brilliant athlete, he'll carry danger and he scored in the semi-final last season - but he's dopey, he loses position, he pushes forward and he doesn't track back quick enough. Occasionally he doesn't jockey well enough and sometimes he doesn't choose when to jockey and when to tackle. I think - and Barcelona are telling us - we're seeing a variety of different mistakes and one of the things about this Barcelona side is they're tremendously intelligent. It's no fluke that they keep exposing him. They're good enough to, they're told how to and they're on a run of doing that. He's a potential weak spot.

GERRY: Because of that I don't think he'll play left-back. Particularly this season they've played Coentrao at left-back away from home in most of the games and I think there's a good chance he'll play at left-back.


Lionel Messi

TERRY: He's not bad! When the tie matters he comes up with big goals, he comes up with special goals and he has the ability to take on a defence. They give him the ball with four or five players to beat and they have a fair idea that he's going to either create a chance or score a goal.

GERRY: He can do what none of the others can do. Iniesta, Xavi and Busquets are all great players, but none of them can do what Messi does in terms of taking on and beating players. He's unbelievable.

Alexis Sanchez

GRAHAM: He's proven his worth so far against Real Madrid. In his very first game in the Super Cup when he didn't know the system at all he played a lovely one-two for Messi's goal. While his pace has looked a little bit suspect since his repeated injuries, he gave them that "burst" when they broke - the burst they lost in the absence of Pedro for about 90 per cent of the season. He's found his pace, his confidence and his goal touch and with both he and Pedro able to come in and score if Messi drops deep then the front line looks as potent now as it has all season.

Javier Mascherano

GUILLEM: The theory is that Carles Puyol is 34-years old, he's strong and he's good at defending and attacking set-pieces. He's better for the Chelsea games and the game in the middle, which is Real Madrid, they leave him out and play Pique and Mascherano. Although Real Madrid are good at set-pieces, you need players that are very fast, so with Pique and Mascherano you are sorted.

GERRY: It's a dangerous theory as well because they're not the tallest of sides. With the height that Real Madrid's got, that could be a massive problem for Barcelona. It's a gamble. Mascherano has played most of his games this season at centre-half, 30-odd games at centre-half but if you had a one-on-one with Benzema or Ronaldo against Mascherano who would you fancy?