Picking a Combined XI of Barcelona & Real Madrid Stars Ahead of Sunday’s Clásico

Barcelona host rivals Real Madrid in what promises to be another fiery Clásico at the Camp Nou on Sunday.

The 238th competitive meeting between the two sides will be the first without headline stars Lionel Messi (who is ruled out with a broken arm) and Cristiano Ronaldo (who joined Juventus in the summer) for the first time in eleven years. 

The Catalans sit at the top of La Liga on 18 points and could go seven points clear of seventh-placed Real Madrid (who are struggling under new manager Julen Lopetegui) with a victory.

11. Goalkeeper: Marc-André ter Stegen

Ter Stegen may have conceded eleven times in nine league appearances for the Catalan side, but he has pulled off some magnificent saves in recent matches, including a terrific stop against Sevilla. 

Yes, keeping four clean sheets overall (two in La Liga and two in the Champions League) may not seem impressive, but considering the quality of their opposition and the absence of first-choice centre-back Samuel Umtiti, it’s pretty respectable. 

Umtiti’s absence has been a massive blow to the Barcelona defence, but the German has done his utmost to prevent the Frenchman’s absence from leaving any lasting damage.

10. Right-Back: Nélson Semedo

With Dani Carvajal set to miss the clash, the Portuguese becomes the natural replacement. He has started eight of his nine appearances in all competitions and has yet to be on the losing side. He is a terrific athlete with lots of pace, and isn’t afraid of going direct.

His marauding runs on the right flank also allow him to support his teammates when they’re on the offence, and his performances have drawn a few similarities with former Barcelona full-back Dani Alves.

9. Centre-Back: Raphaël Varane

Even with Umtiti absent, Varane may well have been part of an all-Real centre-back partnership here. The Frenchman has played every minute of the Merengues’ season so far, and has helped to keep three clean sheets. 

He has struggled under new manager Lopetegui, but is exceptionally talented, with great pace to make vital recovery challenges and interceptions. Oh, and he was a key piece in a World Cup winning team in the summer.

8. Centre-Back: Sergio Ramos

Ramos has a reputation of becoming too hot-headed when it comes to El Clásico. He has been sent off five times in the fixture, the last of those coming in April 2017. He is a terrific leader, commanding his teammates and making fine last-ditch challenges and blocks, but his lack of discipline has cost his side on numerous occasions. 

When he does channel his aggression in the right manner, he becomes a danger in the opposition’s penalty area, especially from set pieces, having netted four times against Barca. 

7. Left-Back: Jordi Alba

Marcelo could miss the fixture with a slight knock, and has looked incredibly nervous in recent matches – despite netting in his last two – which is why Alba gets the nod. The Spaniard has been involved in seven goals in 12 appearances, scoring two and providing five assists. 

He netted in midweek against Inter in the Champions League and could continue his fine form against Madrid. He has bags of pace and his runs off the ball make him a brilliant option when on the offence, as does his ability to pick out his teammates.

6. Defensive Midfield: Sergio Busquets

The Spaniard is an important member of the Barcelona squad, who helps to solidify their midfield. He helps to win possession, dictate the tempo of the game and keep the ball by playing simple passes. 

He reads the game so well and his decision making is one of the reasons why he starts as opposed to Casemiro, who is more of a physical and combustible player in the heart of the Madrid midfield. He doesn’t over-commit to challenges and helps ensure the back line have sufficient cover when facing counter-attacks. 

5. Central Midfield: Luka Modrić

Modrić has struggled since his exploits at the World Cup with Croatia. He has been named the Best FIFA Men’s Player and won the accolade for UEFA’s Best Player in recent months, but his performances have faltered somewhat since his achievements, although it can be argued that his Madrid side have been poor overall and haven’t helped him out. 

He has two assists to his name in 13 appearances, but hasn’t looked as calm and controlled on the ball as he used to. Nevertheless, on his day he can be unbeatable, and his passing and the way he glides past defenders will be pivotal in a high-tempo match against Barcelona. 

4. Central Midfield: Isco

The Spanish midfielder hasn’t featured much this season as a result of appendicitis, but has done well when he has been healthy. An agile player who possesses bags of trickery, Isco uses that to get the better of defenders with ease. He has an eye for a pass as well as tremendous shooting capability, and could possibly one day succeed Andres Iniesta for Spain.

Despite his lack of game time, he has been involved in three goals in eight appearances overall and tends to perform well against Barcelona, who he supported as a boy.

3. Right Wing: Gareth Bale

Bale is doing well to become the new main man at Madrid following the departure of Ronaldo to Juventus. His pace makes him capable of beating practically anyone in a foot race and he has adapted his game to become more of a consistent goalscorer. 

Playing as a left-footed player on the right flank allows him to cut inside and send in dangerous crosses, as well as going for goal himself. He has been involved in seven goals in ten appearances this campaign, scoring three in eight league appearances. He will be a certain threat for Madrid, even when he’s running at pace against the likes of the speedy Alba.

2. Striker: Luis Suárez

The Uruguayan is one of the most lethal finishers in world football. He never gives the defenders a moment’s rest and is always in the thick of the action. He has great pace and his movement off the ball is formidable, which helps his teammates pick him out – and he does the rest. 

He seems like someone who depends on service, but his determination and aggression allows him to put defenders under pressure and he usually takes advantage in clinical fashion. He has ten goals in 12 appearances in all competitions and even without the creativity of Messi, he should be able to produce the goals for himself against Madrid. 

1. Left Wing: Philippe Coutinho

Coutinho played further up the pitch against Inter in midweek, and the fact that he managed to adapt to that role showed that he is capable of doing it more regularly for Barca. He helped draw players away from Rafinha in the buildup to the opener in midweek, and created some good opportunities for his teammates, as well as hitting the woodwork himself.

He has brilliant vision, trickery and his finishing ability is no secret, considering his goals for Liverpool in the Premier League and his performances for Brazil in the World Cup. He has adjusted to life very quickly in La Liga, and already has three goals in nine league appearances.