Neymar Must Live Up to Hype in First El Clasico for Barcelona vs. Real Madrid
(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Neymar's career at Barcelona is off to a solid start. The Brazilian superstar has slid seamlessly into the squad and built some chemistry with Lionel Messi and Co., but he's still seeking a breakout performance.
His first El Clasico would be the perfect time for it.
The rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid is enjoying a prosperous period that should only continue to get more exciting with arrivals such as Neymar and Gareth Bale, Real Madrid's marquee summer signing.
So far, Neymar has tallied two goals and six assists in 11 matches across La Liga and Champions League play. He's usually preferred in a playmaking role, deferring to Messi on the attack, but he's still flashed the terrific individual runs that made him a viral sensation.
Saturday's high-profile clash presents the 21-year-old forward with an opportunity to put it all together and shine on one of the sport's biggest stages.
As he'll learn in the coming years, these matches have a different atmosphere than just about anything else players face at the club level.
The pressure doesn't seem to be getting to him, however—at least not yet.
Lucas Brown of Sky Sports passed along comments Neymar made to Spanish outlet AS, in which he talks about the same feeling of anxiety before each match, regardless of the opponent:
Neymar has had plenty of experience of high-level derby encounters before moving to Spanish football and does not think he will feel differently beforehand.
"I think the anxiety is the same before any match," he continued. "I understand that we are talking about a very important Clasico. But I think that butterfly-in-the-stomach feeling is the same before any game."
Perhaps that opinion will change after he steps out in front of a huge Camp Nou crowd and feels the energy in the stadium ahead of what's already an important clash.
Neymar and the Blaugrana currently lead La Liga by one point over Atletico Madrid and hold a three-point edge over Real Madrid. The difference between being stretching the advantage over Real to six points or potentially being tied is huge, even at this stage in the campaign.
What's your prediction for the season's first El Clasico?
In order to secure the victory, Barcelona need Neymar to put consistent pressure on los Blancos' back line by attacking with pace. Not only will it allow him to create scoring chances, but it should open up the field for his teammates.
Even though Neymar is seemingly taking his first El Clasico in stride, the onus is on him to play like a superstar.
Anything less and he'll start to hear criticism, something even Cristiano Ronaldo dealt with in the past when he endured some struggles in the rivalry.
There is no shortage of star power on the pitch during an El Clasico. Neymar, despite the intense hype that surrounds him, is just another star is a sea of big names. He must put together a great performance in order to get the same type of attention after the match that he's getting before it.
If he's up to the task, Barcelona should walk away with three points.
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