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

The Hard Tackle lists three players who can make a lasting impact when Real Madrid and Barcelona face off at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

The final El Clasico of the 2023/24 season is upon us, and the stake could not be higher for Barcelona as they get set to lock horns with Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Blaugrana cannot afford to drop any more points in La Liga, with Los Blancos eight points clear at the top of the table.

The two clubs have endured contrasting fortunes heading into the final El Clasico this term. Barcelona bowed out of the UEFA Champions League at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain after a crushing 4-1 defeat at home on Tuesday. The next day, Real Madrid held off Manchester City before progressing to the semi-finals through a penalty-shootout win.

As for matters on the domestic front, Barcelona’s form has significantly improved in the last few weeks. But with Real Madrid not letting up in the hunt for the title, the gap at the top of the table has remained eight points. However, that will come down to five points if the reigning champions clinch a victory on Sunday.

As ever, the margin of error in such fierce rivalries is threadbare. However, the performances of a few players can tip the scales in their team’s favour. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle lists three “key players” for Sunday’s much-awaited El Clasico.


Our list begins with a player whose performances have embodied Barcelona’s turnaround in form. With those displays, he has also turned his fortunes around. We are talking about the in-form Raphinha.

A few weeks ago, Raphinha’s long-term future at the Catalan club was non-existent, with Joao Felix ahead of him in the pecking order and Lamine Yamal establishing a foothold in the first-team squad. However, a few top-notch showings have helped him curry favour in the dressing room.

The Brazilian international is now a first-choice attacker for Barcelona, with his performance against Paris Saint-Germain last week turning things around for him. Raphinha’s future remains uncertain due to his high market value amid the links with Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United.

However, another game-changing display on Sunday can help him secure his Barcelona future while condemning Real Madrid to a defeat. Expect a pumped Raphinha to trouble the home side’s defenders with his directness and smattering pace.

Rodrygo Goes

Our next pick is another player whose future at his club was not set in stone. However, he has let his performances do the talking for him in the last few months, even though his position will be under threat once Kylian Mbappe arrives in the summer transfer window. We are talking about Rodrygo.

The 23-year-old was slow off the blocks this season but has bounced back with aplomb. Rodrygo has an excellent tally of 17 goals and eight assists in 44 appearances across all competitions, with only Jude Bellingham and Vinicius Junior being more productive.

However, like Raphinha, Rodrygo’s long-term future at Real Madrid is uncertain, with Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United keen on signing him. However, the Brazilian international does not want to leave, with Los Blancos not showing any inclination to part ways with him either.

As for matters on the pitch, Rodrygo has often raised his hand in the biggest games, finding the back of the net in both legs against Manchester City while also scoring in the Spanish Super Cup final against Barcelona to help Real Madrid raise the trophy. Another such showing will help Los Blancos effectively seal the title on Sunday.

Ronald Araujo

Our list ends with a player who has been the subject of controversy this week. However, a top showing by Ronald Araujo can help Barcelona keep Real Madrid at bay while closing the gap to the table-toppers to only five points.

Araujo’s dismissal against Paris Saint-Germain drew the ire of Ilkay Gundogan, with the Uruguayan international throwing a veiled dig in return. While all parties have insisted on unity within the dressing room, game-changing performances are often the difference-makers.

Araujo has often risen to the occasion in big games, with the drab performance against PSG being an anomaly. His defensive acumen has also previously troubled Vinicius Junior, and the 25-year-old can be the player to make the difference at the back for Barcelona when they take on Real Madrid on Sunday.

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