Deprived of many executives for several weeks, Barça (3rd, 24 points), the only team still undefeated in La Liga, is hoping for the returns of its star scorer Robert Lewandowski, its playing master Frenkie de Jong and the Brazilian Raphinha, to overtake Madrid ( 1st, 25 points). Jules Koundé, Pedri and Sergi Roberto should be missed. This slaughter of injuries pushed Xavi Hernandez to trust the jewels trained at La Masia, his prestigious training center, who proved decisive in turn.
Last weekend, it was Marc Guiu, a 17-year-old striker, who allowed Barcelona to climb to third place, one point behind Real Madrid (1st, 25 points), thanks to a goal scored 33 seconds after his first professional appearance. Guiu is the thirteenth player from the training center to be thrown into the deep end by Xavi, who did not hesitate to start 16-year-old winger Lamine Yamal and 20-year-old midfielder Fermin Lopez to compensate for these absences. Yamal broke all records for precocity, becoming the youngest player to start and score with Barcelona and in the selection, while Fermin Lopez, already a scorer against Mallorca (2-2), gave a recital against Shakhtar Donetsk Tuesday (2-1) for his first start in the Champions League.
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Both should be lined up from the start against the Madrid armada, alongside the other products of the Masia, installed since last season but just as early, Gavi (19 years old) and Alejandro Balde (20 years old). “It’s time to bet on youth,” said Xavi after the victory against Bilbao, the ex-captain of the Catalan club saying he wanted to repay “the confidence that was given to me when I was 17-18 years". “The difference between my generation and theirs is that they want to play, they are not afraid. I think they are ready. They have character and the courage it takes,” he added.
Madrid have not been spared from injuries either, and will still be without their Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and their Brazilian defender Eder Militao, victims of a ruptured cruciate ligament in their right knee a few days apart. Despite an alert during the success in Braga (2-1) in C1 on Tuesday, the English prodigy Jude Bellingham, top scorer in the championship (8 goals) and sparkling since his arrival this summer for 103 million euros from Dortmund, assured that he would be there, ready to shine for his first classic.
Author of eleven goals and three assists in twelve games, the 20-year-old midfielder manages, at least on a statistical level, to compensate for the surprise departure of Karim Benzema to Saudi Arabia this summer. “He is only 20 years old but he looks 30, because of his character and his attitude,” said his coach, Carlo Ancelotti. “He has a lot of qualities, physical strength and technical skills. He surprises me as he surprises everyone.
As always, the preparation for the Clasico has seen its share of controversies. Madrilenians have launched a campaign against Spanish referees through several videos produced by Real Madrid TV. At the same time, FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta claimed that there was a “sociological madridism” in Spain, implying that Real was favored by the state. His indictment for corruption in the “Negreira affair”, an investigation into payments made by FC Barcelona to a former head of refereeing, would, according to him, be an example of this. According to the Spanish press, Madrid President Florentino Perez decided not to attend the Clasico as a sign of protest after a tweet from a Barcelona spokesperson who believed that the Brazilian Vinicius, victim of racist acts in the stadiums, needed with a “slap” and behaved like a “clown” on the field.