Barcelona against Real Madrid. El Clásico, for most, is the biggest club fixture in football. The Spanish superpowers go head-to-head this weekend in a clash which usually has consequences for the La Liga title race.
The two teams might be in transition, but each have squad stacked with talent. Ahead of Saturday’s showdown, we’ve attempted to put together a best XI from their combined stars.
Barcelona vs Real Madrid – El Clásico Combined XI
Goalkeeper: Marc-André ter Stegen – Barcelona
Thibaut Courtois’ injury makes this a straightforward selection, with Marc-André ter Stegen kicking off our combined XI. The German goalkeeper is now into his 10th season in Catalonia, a period which has seen Ter Stegen win five La Liga titles, five Copa del Reys and the Champions League.
The 2022/23 campaign was one of his best seasons in a Barcelona shirt, as the Catalans were crowned champions with just 20 goals conceded.
Right-back: Joao Cancelo – Barcelona
Joao Cancelo has rediscovered his form since signing on loan for Barcelona last summer, with the right-back reminding Europe just why he is one of the most influential full-backs in the game. The Portugal international has two goals and an assist from seven La Liga appearances for the Catalans, with his brilliant individual effort against Real Betis earning the division’s Goal of the Month award for September.
Though the focus is often on Cancelo’s offensive work, he ranks joint-first in La Liga for tackles won this season and second for number of dribblers tackled.
— LALIGA English (@LaLigaEN) October 20, 2023
Centre-back: Jules Kounde – Barcelona
Jules Kounde has grown in stature at Barcelona with a move to a centre-back position having brought the best from the Frenchman, who leads Europe’s top five leagues for progressive carrying distance (2380m) by a considerable distance.
The 24-year-old is also among La Liga’s top players for passes into the final third (2nd), pass completion (4th – 92.4%), successful take-on percentage (6th – 83.3%) and touches (3rd). Having been named in La Liga’s Team of the Season in consecutive campaigns, Kounde’s carry and confidence in the backline could bring a third straight inclusion.
Centre-back: Antonio Rudiger – Real Madrid
Rudiger’s centre-back partner David Alaba might have a little more grace than the German defender, but there’s something to be admired about Rudiger’s relentless determination to shithouse strikers on a regular basis.
The 30-year-old is powerful, commanding, and contains a little bit of b****** in him, a centre-back who often plays his best football on the edge. He’s been a brilliant signing for the Spaniards after arriving from Chelsea on a free transfer.
Left-back: Alejandro Balde – Barcelona
Alejandro Balde is one of several starlets set to form the backbone of Barcelona’s next generation, having risen from the academy ranks to become a first-team regular. Balde was named in La Liga’s Team of the Season last term, after a breakthrough that saw the 20-year-old provide six league assists.
This season the Spain international has started the season well, ranking third in La Liga for progressive carries and sixth for progressive passes received. He has emerged as a fine outlet down the left flank.
Midfield: Frenkie de Jong – Barcelona
Despite admirers from the Premier League, Frenkie de Jong has remained at Barcelona and proven how he can be the perfect fit for Xavi’s side. Barcelona’s head coach knows better than most what it takes to succeed in midfield at the highest level, with De Jong demonstrating all the attributes to be a key cog in his team.
This season the Dutch international ranks second in La Liga for pass completion (93.2%) and progressive carrying distance, while he is among the division’s leaders for passes into the final third (3rd), progressive passes (9th), passes into the penalty area (10th) and shot-creating actions (9th).
Midfield: Fede Valverde – Real Madrid
Fede Valverde has evolved into one of Europe’s best midfielders under the tutelage of Carlo Ancelotti, who staked publicly his confidence in the 25-year-old improving his game. Having failed to score a league goal in 2021/22, Valverde netted 12 in all competitions during a career-best campaign last term.
All-action, tenacious and with improved end product, Valverde rarely drops below excellence whether stationed centrally or wide. His lung-busting exploits make him one of Real Madrid’s most valuable assets.
Midfield: Jude Bellingham – Real Madrid
Jude Bellingham is preparing for his first Clásico contest and on the evidence of his Real Madrid career so far, it is not an occasion to overawe the England midfielder. Bellingham has been brilliant since signing from Borussia Dortmund and is La Liga’s leading scorer, having netted 11 goals in 12 games across all competitions for Los Blancos.
“No, not really, I’ve obviously played a lot of high-pressure games, [although] maybe not one of this magnitude,” Bellingham said, as per The Guardian, when asked if he had any nerves about facing Barcelona.
“I’m more excited than anything. I’m so looking forward to the atmosphere. Whatever else, it will be really fun.”
— LALIGA English (@LaLigaEN) August 12, 2023
It’s certainly been fun watching him rip up Spanish football this season.
Forward: Joao Felix – Barcelona
Joao Felix has made a promising start at Barcelona since signing for the Catalans on loan from Atletico Madrid. After an underwhelming loan spell at Chelsea, Felix has hit the ground running with La Blaugrana to provide six G/As in nine starts in all competitions.
His technical excellence in small pockets of space appear a perfect fit for a Barcelona team who have long placed emphasis on intricate team play.
Forward: Vinicius Junior – Real Madrid
Vinicius Junior’s improvement across the past two campaigns has placed the winger in the conversation surrounding world football’s best. His last two seasons have seen the Brazilian produce 86 goals and assists in all competitions, a return which has helped Real Madrid to Champions League, La Liga and Copa Del Rey triumphs.
Alongside Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe and teammate Jude Bellingham, Vinicius is among a group of players looking to inherit the football throne held long term by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Forward: Robert Lewandowski – Barcelona
Still one of the best around when it comes to chance conversion, and Barcelona will be hoping last season’s leading scorer is passed fit for the weekend. Lewandowski might be 35, but he remains a formidable forward capable of deciding games on any stage.
He has 39 goals in 56 appearances for Barcelona since arriving from Bayern Munich, claiming the Pichichi Trophy as Spain’s leading scorer last season, after topping the Bundesliga’s goal chart on a joint-record seven occasions at Dortmund and Bayern.