Real Madrid vs Barcelona: Three key players to look out for

The Hard Tackle lists three players who can have a positive impact when Real Madrid and Barcelona clash in the Spanish Super Cup final.

The first trophy of the 2023/24 Spanish season will be up for grabs this weekend as Real Madrid and Barcelona lock horns at the Al-Awwal Stadium on Sunday evening in the Spanish Super Cup final.

Real Madrid reached the Spanish Super Cup final after twice coming from behind to beat Atletico Madrid 5-3 after extra time in the first semi-final. The Merengues have been excellent thus far in the 2023/24 season despite an injury crisis rampaging Carlo Ancelotti’s squad, losing only one game.

On the other hand, Barcelona qualified for the Spanish Super Cup final by beating Osasuna 2-0 in the second semi-final on Thursday. The Catalan giants have blown hot and cold thus far this term, trailing Real Madrid and Girona in the title race in La Liga while struggling to blow their opponents away.

Real Madrid and Barcelona have already met once this season, with Los Blancos winning the first La Liga clash. Ahead of the second El Clasico of the 2023/24 campaign, The Hard Tackle lists three players who can singlehandedly swing the pendulum in their team’s favour on Sunday.

Ronald Araujo

Our list begins with a defender, a rarity in such columns, considering how crucial attackers are to their teams’ fortunes. But we start with Ronald Araujo, who often finds himself as Xavi Hernandez’s go-to man for Barcelona.

Xavi unlocked a trick in his first El Clasico as the Barcelona manager when he deployed Araujo as the right-back to neutralise Vinicius Junior. The ploy worked wonders, with Barcelona beating Real Madrid and the Uruguayan international keeping his fellow South American quiet for much of the proceedings.

Araujo has featured as a centre-back for most of the 2023/24 season thus far. But with Vinicius Junior fit and firing after recovering from a hamstring injury, Xavi might need Araujo to negate the Brazilian international’s influence on the proceedings.

The 24-year-old is a popular figure in the transfer market these days due to Barcelona’s financial woes. While he has maintained he remains committed to the Blaugrana, high-profile clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool, and others remain keen on signing him. But Araujo is a consummate professional, and he will want to prove his worth to Xavi again on Sunday.

Vinicius Junior

Will Vinicius Junior make his mark? (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

The other aspect of the battle between the two best players of the respective teams joins our list. The player in question is Vinicius Junior, who has come back with a bang since recovering from his latest injury.

Unlike recent campaigns, the Brazilian international has not set the stage alight this season, unlike recent campaigns. Vinicius Junior had become a talismanic figure for Real Madrid in 2022/23. But injuries have hampered him considerably this term, restricting his influence.

While the 23-year-old has bounced back well since returning to action, he needs some spark to showcase his world-beating abilities. So, as he continues to regain his form and sharpness, the game against Barcelona can be the catalyst for Vinicius Junior to become the Real Madrid talisman again.

If he rises to the occasion, Barcelona and Xavi will have a long day at work. So, expect Vinicius Junior to be at his boisterous best in the final third as Real Madrid and Barcelona lock horns in the second El Clasico of the 2023/24 season.

Robert Lewandowski

Our list ends with another attacker. Like Vinicius Junior, we have picked a player who needs some inspiration to get back to his domineering best. We are talking about Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski.

The Polish international had hit the ground running after arriving from Bayern Munich ahead of the 2022/23 season. He won the Pichichi trophy at the first time of asking, leading Barcelona to the top of La Liga with his game-changing performances.

But Lewandowski’s form has nosedived this season, as he has managed only 11 goals in 24 appearances thus far. But the semi-final against Osasuna might have brought cause for optimism, as he found the back of the net to help deliver the win on Thursday.

But Lewandowski has often disappeared in the “big” games this season, leading Barcelona fans to voice their agony over his lack of form. He can turn his fortunes around by delivering the goods in the final third. Failure to do so will only worsen his woes.

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