Oct 25, 2013, 12:47 PM EST
On Saturday evening in Barcelona, arguably the greatest rivalry in world soccer kicks off for yet another season.
This year, there are plenty of new faces involved in the game known across the globe as ‘El Clasico’ but two new names in particular are set to get the crowds going at the Nou Camp: Neymar and Gareth Bale.
Signing for Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively over the summer, both attackers will get their first taste of El Clasico in a stadium packed with almost 100,000 spectators in a fiery and rambunctious derby. The old rivalry is deep-rooted with political agendas, as Catalonia and the rest of Spain, especially Madrid, ‘don’t get along’ to put in nicely.
Brazilian born Neymar and Welshman Bale will be be thrown into the intimidating atmosphere, and it’s sink or swim times for these boys. Both have the faith and trust of their managers, as Madrid’s new boss Carlo Ancelotti confirmed Bale is ready to start, while Barca’s new manager Gerardo Martino has praised Neymar for his performances and wants the winger protected against heavy tackles from Real.
Both Ancelloti and Martino will be tasting El Clasico for the first-time in their managerial careers, and both managers will hope their superstar wingers can provide that extra spark to get them the win.
World record signing Bale, who signed for Real from Tottenham Hotspur for $132 million, is expected to start for the first time since his Real debut back in September as he continues to recover from a thigh injury. The 24-year-old winger has made a slow start to his Madrid career, and has the chance to become an instant Madrid hero if he can produce the goods in El Clasico on a steamy Saturday evening on the Mediterranean.
Bale has so far played five times for Madrid, amassing just 172 minutes in the glistening white uniform of Real and scoring just once on his debut against Villarreal. The Welshman hasn’t added any assists, and with injuries and lack of fitness hampering his career at Madrid so far, Bale will be hoping he can come out firing on all cylinders when he ascends from the dressing room below to the pitch above and into the thunderous atmosphere that’s sure to await.
As for Neymar, Barca’s 21-year-old Brazilian wonder-boy has dazzled on occasions so far and has looked worth every penny of the $72 million Barcelona paid Santos to bring him to Europe. After 13 games for his new club, Neymar has logged 928 minutes of playing time, scored three goals and added six assists. I’d say that’s a pretty satisfactory start to his Barca career.
However, average doesn’t cut at the Camp Nou, and whoever turns into the match-winner, Bale or Neymar, on Saturday can surely hold the mantle of being the best summer-signing. This game is crucial as Barca sit top of the table with 25 points from nine games, while Real are just three points behind in third.
Early season impetus is on the line as these arch nemesis’ square off for the 167th time, with Madrid holding a slender advantage with 70 wins to Barca’s 62.
These are the games that count.
If Bale returns from injury and does the business, Madrid fans will forget all about his first few months on the treatment table, while Neymar can elevate his status ahead of Bale further if he puts in a dominant display.
Let’s not forget, these two youngsters are playing second-fiddle to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi will play after returning from injury, as he scored the equalizer in Barca’s 1-1 Champions League draw away at AC Milan in midweek. As for Ronaldo, he just keeps scoring and may threaten Messi’s attempts to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award for the fifth time running.
So, if Neymar and Bale don’t get the job done, it’s likely the senior dream team of Messi and Ronaldo will step in to show them how it’s done.
You can watch El Clasico live on BeIN Sport at 12pm ET on Saturday.
Nov 21, 2014, 12:17 AM EST
Swansea manager Garry Monk is hoping for the best as the Swans journey to play Manchester City at the Etihad this weekend.
Nov 20, 2014, 11:42 PM EST
Coupled with a breakout year from Lee Nguyen, Jermaine Jones’ skill and leadership have guided the New England Revolution to one of Major League Soccer’s most cohesive units.
Nov 20, 2014, 10:45 PM EST
Mascherano: “Messi didn’t say anything weird, he said what all football players are thinking.”
Nov 20, 2014, 9:24 PM EST
Alan Pardew has enjoyed newcomer Ayoze Perez’s huge impact, as the young Spain international has netted three goals in three consecutive matches.
Nov 20, 2014, 8:19 PM EST
Following widespread discontent, convicted rapist Ched Evans won’t be back on the field for Sheffield United as expected.
Nov 20, 2014, 7:32 PM EST
Meet the supporters of D.C. United, an MLS club steeped in tradition since the league’s inception.
Nov 20, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
Tim Howard unsurprisingly takes U.S. Soccer’s Male Athlete of the Year award.
Nov 20, 2014, 5:10 PM EST
Wigan Athletic shirt sponsors have ended their contract with the club due to Malkay Mackay’s illicit text messages.
Nov 20, 2014, 4:30 PM EST
“It would be a scandal and a shame if they did not give [Ronaldo] the Ballon d’Or,” says Pepe.
Nov 20, 2014, 3:55 PM EST
Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini are set to stay at Juventus with fresh deals.
Nov 20, 2014, 3:39 PM EST
Whelan: “I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I don’t think that’s offensive at all.”
Nov 20, 2014, 3:02 PM EST
Details on Geoff Cameron’s exciting new role with ProSoccerTalk.
Nov 20, 2014, 2:31 PM EST
Review of FIFA’s corruption report ordered, as Qatar, Russia scrutinized once again.
Nov 20, 2014, 1:32 PM EST
You get your say. After MLS held talks with cities in California, Nevada and Minnesota, is this the right move for the league?
Nov 20, 2014, 12:37 PM EST
Van Gaal confirms new issue is bothering Falcao.
Nov 20, 2014, 12:02 PM EST
Blind was ruled out for six months by United’s Twitter account… but there’s been a twist.
Nov 20, 2014, 10:54 AM EST
Here are the finalists for MLS 2014 awards. Agree? Disagree?
Nov 20, 2014, 9:46 AM EST
Could United pay a PL record fee for a defender?
Nov 20, 2014, 8:39 AM EST
Giroud back a month ahead of schedule to hand Gunners massive boost.
Nov 20, 2014, 8:05 AM EST
Cech set for a move to the Emirates in January according to reports.
- What to expect as USA, Premier League star Geoff Cameron joins ProSoccerTalk 0
- FIFA saga takes new twist: World Cup corruption report to be reviewed 0
- VOTE – Best choice for MLS expansion: Las Vegas, Sacramento or Minneapolis? 16
- Manchester United’s Radamel Falcao suffers new injury setback 0
- Mats Hummels to Manchester United rumors persist. Can it happen in January? 1
- Report: Arsenal have deal in place to sign Chelsea’s Petr Cech 1