Barcelona and Real Madrid meet at Camp Nou tonight in the eagerly anticipated first El Clásico of the 2013-14 La Liga campaign.
It is always a crucial game when these two giants of European football meet, and this time will be no different. A home win will see the Catalan giants move six points clear at the top of the table, while an away win for Carlo Ancelotti’s men will give the sides identical records after ten games.
All eyes will be on Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with the world’s two best players set to resume their personal battle on the biggest stage. However, despite the quality of these two and countless other world-class players on show, each side has a new big-name signing with something to prove.
After a scintillating showing at the Confederations Cup over the off-season, Neymar was expected to be an instant success in La Liga. The Brazil international has certainly given his side’s fans glimpses of his immense ability, but as yet he has not hit his best form.
The South American is clearly still adjusting to life at his new club, and the transition from big fish in a little pond to just another superstar at Camp Nou will take time for him to get his head around.
In eight La Liga matches for the Blaugrana, Neymar has scored twice and created five assists. Interestingly, the former Santos forward is the most-fouled player in the division this term so far, and can expect this heavy handed approach to continue against Álvaro Arbeloa.
Bale’s world-record transfer to Real Madrid was always going to put a huge amount of pressure on the Wales international, and he has had a slow start to life at the Santiago Bernabéu. The lack of a proper pre-season and the recurrence of niggling injuries have meant that the former Spurs wideman is yet to string a run of games together for Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
Bale scored on his debut against Villarreal, but has not shown the same sparkling ability that made him a star at Tottenham yet in Spain. With Jordi Alba injured, the Welshman will be up against Adriano if selected, and has the ability to make inroads against the attack-minded full-back.
Bale is in contention to start on the right against Barcelona, but may have to make do with a place on the bench as Ángel Di Maria is also in Ancelotti’s thoughts.
With Neymar starting on the left for Barca and Bale potentially on the right for Real, it is likely that the pair will come into direct competition on occasion on Saturday. Both have the chance to become an instant hero with their respective fans, and have the opportunity to prove themselves on the biggest of stages.