El clásico: A Barcelona player-by-player guide to Ernesto Valverde's likely starting XI against Real Madrid

Lionel Messi will spearhead Barcelona's attack against Real Madrid

Gonzalo Caada
Friday 22 December 2017 22:54
Lionel Messi will go head-to-head with Cristiano Ronaldo this weekend
Lionel Messi will go head-to-head with Cristiano Ronaldo this weekend

Ernesto Valverde visits the Santiago Bernabéu for the first time since becoming Barcelona manager and will be confident of his chances.

Barcelona are currently sitting at the very top of La Liga and boast an 11-point lead over bitter rivals Real Madrid, who languish in fourth.

They have hardly missed Neymar, who left in the summer, and have won 13 of their 16 league matches – drawing the other three.

Here, we take a look at Barcelona’s likely line-up ahead of the biggest game in the Spanish calendar.

Marc-André Ter Stegen

The German goalkeeper has been in superb form. He has conceded just seven goals in 16 matches. In the build-up to the match he has recounted conceding a late header to Sergio Ramos last season and said he is determined to make sure he doesn’t make the same mistake again.

Sergi Roberto

The utility man will play at right-back. Sergi Roberto can play as a midfielder, as a right back or even as a right winger and always perform satisfactorily. Roberto has gained Valverde’s confidence this season although Semedo started off as his right-back before losing his place in the team.

Gerard Piqué

The Spanish defender is not in the greatest form of his career but is still indispensable. Even more so after Samuel Umtiti’s injury. He will have to be at his best to keep Cristiano Ronaldo quiet.

Gerard PIque needs to have a good game 

Thomas Vermaelen

Belgian defender arrived to Barcelona in 2014 but has struggled to hold down a place in the first-team because of injuries: this game is a huge opportunity for him.

Jordi Alba

Having recovered from a muscular injury, Alba will start at left-back. His speed always causes the opposition defence problems and his duel with Dani Carvajal will be fascinating.

Sergio Busquets

Many consider Busquets to be the best defensive midfielder in the world. He plays a key role in Barca’s system and will be tasked with stopping the deep-lying runs of Karim Benzema, who likes to drop into the hole in search of the ball.

The midfielder is key to Barcelona's system

Ivan Rakitic

Barcelona’s equivalent of the sensational Toni Kroos. Rakitic keeps the flowing and is important going forward and staying back, although much of his thunder has been stolen by Paulinho.


Barcelona’s No 15 is the feel-good story of their season. His arrival from China prompted much mockery but he has been superb, scoring six goals already – the same number as Cristiano Ronaldo. He is also a threat from set-pieces.

Andrés Iniesta

The Spanish star arrives to the match in fine form. Barcelona’s maestro – he may not be quite the player of old but he is still essential to his team’s chances.

Barcelona's captain, Andres Iniesta

Lionel Messi

Barcelona’s star man has already scored 14 goals in 16 league matches. He will be the main thorn in Real Madrid’s side and his head-to-head battle with Ronaldo will dominate the headlines.

Luis Suárez

Suarez loves the big occasion. He will battle it out with Sergio Ramos and the outcome of their duel will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this match.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments