El Clasico 2013: Breaking Down Battle Between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
When Barcelona and Real Madrid take the pitch for an El Clasico encounter, there's no shortage of star power. The clubs sport two of the most talented squads in the world. Yet, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo always take center stage.
The fact two of the sport's biggest stars get to face off multiple times each campaign is a treat, at least for fans around the globe. For the clubs, almost every El Clasico carries a lot of weight and they lean heavily on Messi and Ronaldo to lead the way.
This season's first matchup comes at a time when Ronaldo is on fire, having just scored twice to lead Real Madrid past Juventus in Champions League play. He's now found the net at least once in nine of his past 10 matches for the Blancos.
On the flip side, Barcelona's attack has fallen into a mini slump. Barca have scored just one goal over the past two matches, a pair of road draws with Osasuna and AC Milan, and will turn to Messi to right the ship in El Clasico.
In years past, Messi had more support heading into these matchups. Having a midfield headlined by Andres Iniesta and Xavi made his job of finding space in the attacking third easier. The arrival of Neymar, who's adapted to a playmaking role, provided further help to a player that doesn't need much.
That said, Real Madrid went out during the summer to bolster the squad alongside Ronaldo. Adding players like Gareth Bale, who's ready to get more involved after fighting through various injuries, and Isco was a major investment by the club.
Which player would you rather have leading your attack?
Matches like Saturday's El Clasico is when that investment will pay off. One of the biggest concerns surrounding Barca heading into the campaign was a lack of depth along the back line, which will likely get tested with Gerard Pique in doubt due to a hamstring strain.
Previously, the Blaugrana would have simply shifted a veteran like Carles Puyol to track Ronaldo. Now that Real have added more attacking weapons into the equation, accounting for a major absence like Pique will be much more difficult.
If Barcelona focuses on stopping Ronaldo on the left, Bale should be set up to have a great performance on the right. Having players that can attack with pace off both wings is a major advantage.
It also shows the power of superstars like Ronaldo and Messi. They completely dictate what an opponent does at the back, and that allows other players on the squad to benefit from the extra space and lack of defensive attention.
The Real Madrid back line will have its hands full as well, of course. Sergio Ramos and Co. have to worry about Neymar, Xavi and Iniesta, among others, while also knowing Messi is going to make them pay if they lose track of him for a split second.
Messi and Ronaldo leading their respective attacks in El Clasico is an awesome battle within an elite rivalry. Every time fans think they have seen it all, one of them will make a highlight-reel play that will be shown over and over for years.
And, in the end, the superstar who plays better usually leads his club to three crucial points. This time probably won't be any different.
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