5 Things To Watch In Sunday's Clasico Between Barcelona & Real Madrid


I know what you're thinking. It's the ruddy Clasico, what's not to watch?

You've got a point, but such is the nuclear-blast intensity of these Barcelona-Real Madrid coming togethers it's easy to miss a "goooooooooooooooal", or a red card, or a pig's head being thrown onto the pitch, if you don't know where to look.

With that in mind, here are five things to watch for as we look ahead to the resuming of snarling hostilities between these two great La Liga rivals at Camp Nou.

 

1. Gareth Bale

Real Madrid CF v Levante UD - La Liga : News Photo

Could it be that Bale will get less grief in Barca's lair than he does from the spoiled Madristas at the Bernabeu? The answer to that is of course no, especially with Barca fans acutely aware of Bale's insecurities - they'll be ready to eat him up like 30 euro plates of paella on Las Ramblas.

Bale scored twice against Levante at the weekend, cupping his hands over his ears in a show of defiance to those who doubt him. The point remains, however, that he's fallen a long way short of justifying his £80 million+ transfer fee this season and there's plenty of winning over left to do yet.

Camp Nou is the setting for Bale to make a statement on a stage that really matters. His clasico credentials are in place after scoring the winner in last season's Copa del Rey final and for once the Madrid fans will be concentrating their boos elsewhere.

READ: Mark Jones on why the Bernabeu Boos Could Be The Making Of Bale

 

2. Luis Suarez vs. Pepe and Sergio Ramos

 

There will be haters, and may very well be blood, as a snarling Suarez leads the Barca line against the uncompromising pair of Pepe and Ramos (aka Heat-era Val Kilmer).

It will be Suarez's second Clasico, but the first he'll go into at full throttle and acclimatised to life in a Barca shirt. Seven goals in his last seven games have instructed us that Suarez is back to his best and he'll absolutely relish Sunday's encounter.

Meanwhile, Pepe and Ramos will bring their experience and spoiling tactics to the party. The fact Madrid have lost twice in their last four away games in La Liga - including a 4-0 hammering from Atleti - will have their fans concerned however.

 

3.  The redemption of Iker Casillas?

Real Madrid CF v Levante UD - La Liga : News Photo 

Real Madrid stalwart Casillas is not the goalkeeper he used to be, or so we saw at the World Cup and continue to be reminded every time Carlo Ancelotti drops him for Keylor Navas. Doubts persist as to whether Casillas is equipped to continue his legacy at the club he loves.

Casillas will play in this one. Ancelotti has made his call and it's now down to "the Saint" to put in the kind of performance that beats down detractors with every beaten down Messi, Neymar and Suarez shot on goal. Could it be this game that he'll turn the corner and head back to his best?

Either that or he'll have an absolute disaster and never play for Madrid again.

 

4. Magisterial Messi

The atomic flea is jumping again. Messi is scoring beautiful goals, winning the Internet with 50-yard dribbles and once again distancing himself from the Messi who plays for Argentina at World Cups and doesn't do a lot (relatively).

Those who follow La Liga or watched his Champions League performance against Manchester City know this only too well. For everybody else, a timely reminder could be delivered in a home Clasico before his adoring Blaugrana hoards.

Madrid would be mad not to press Messi's every touch and it will be fascinating to see if they can succeed in stifling him without getting a player sent off, as red cards are almost obligatory in these encounters.

 

5. Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Dani Alves

Remember when Dani Alves nutmegged Ronaldo like he was a mid-ranking Premier League nobody? 

The pair will come together on Barca's right flank on Sunday, as Ronaldo drives down Madrid's left, goose-stepping and throwing all the usual theatrics in for good measure.

Alves is not a man to back down, and being angered by recent speculation he's already done a deal to join PSG. the Brazilian could be ready to unleash hell on Ronaldo if given the chance.

Ronaldo, meanwhile, is a man who is said to be struggling for form. Even the merest whisper of doubts will propel him into this clash desperate to score 10 goals and bare his perfect torso on the front page of every newspaper in Spain.