The biggest football match in Spain will be played on Saturday when Real Madrid host greatest rival Barcelona. It will be the 263rd ‘El Clasico’ in all competitions, but the match – and all of the football world could be missing one of the best players on the planet – Lionel Messi.
Messi has been given the green light from Barcelona’s medical staff to take part in the match after two months of recovery from a knee injury, but coach Luis Enrique does not want to risk too much. The Argentinian suffered a tear to the medial collateral ligament (MCL) of his left knee after shooting under pressure from Las Palmas defender Pedro Bigas Rigo two months ago.
Since then Barca have won eight out of their ten matches, scoring 23 goals, with 16 of them coming in six La Liga encounters.
Neymar and Luis Suarez have shown that the Blaugrana have plenty to count on even without their best player. Since Messi’s injury, Barca’s attacking duo have been responsible for netting all 16 La Liga goals.
“Messi can change the game and he’s done incredible things in previous Clasicos. But it depends on the doctors and what they think is best for him. He has looked good while training with us over the last few days but it’s an injury that could take a sudden turn for the worse,” said Suarez who scored the winning goal in the previous Clasico at Camp Nou.
The Uruguayan stepped up immediately after the big blow, scoring both goal against Las Palmas, and later found the net against Rayo Vallecano, Eibar, Getafe and Villareal. Including the Champions League, he has picked up nine goals in eight appearances and has provided a couple of assists to boot. ‘El Pistolero’ was especially dominant against Eibar when he netted a hat-trick in 3:1 comeback victory.
“Together with Luis Suarez, I have to make the movements to make chances. I don’t know if we are the best forwards, but we’re playing well and we have a good friendship off the pitch too. I think this helps a lot. I hope to be able to enjoy this attack for many years in good form. Suarez has played phenomenally, but so has everyone else on the team. We are really happy with the result,” noted Neymar.
The Brazilian striker has done even better, showing great form in the last month.
After a penalty against Sevilla, he scored a remarkable four goals as the Blaugrana defeated Rayo Vallecano 5:2. The 23-year-old added another in the 2:0 win at Getafe and two more in the 3:0 victory at home to BATE. Last week, Neymar put on another brilliant performance against Villarreal, scoring an impressive individual second goal.
After receiving the ball from Suarez, the Brazilian flicked it up over his shoulder and over a defender before volleying past keeper Areola from just inside the area.
“Neymar is on spectacular form and you could easily say that he’s the second best player in the world. As a team-mate, I’m proud to see him playing so well and doing what he’s doing,” added Suarez.
According to squawka.com, the striker from Mogi das Cruzes has had 64 shots this season, 27 of which have been on target. Suarez is just one ahead with 65 shots, although more of his been on target (29). At least one member of the duo is almost always involved in any form of Barca attack.
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique listed the reasons of the success of the phenomenal MSN trident.
“The key of these three is the relationship that they have,” Pique told the Telegraph. ”You can see that on the pitch. It’s magnificent. For example, when one is scoring a lot and the other is not scoring – Neymar, the other day, he gave the penalty to Suarez. When you see this kind of attitude, it means a lot. The only problem when you have players of this magnitude is the ego. Suarez was the main star in Liverpool, Leo before we had Suarez and Neymar; it was just him. And how they connect – they do not have any ego and this is the most important part. And they are different. Neymar is the best one-on-one. He is unstoppable. You have Leo Messi who is the most complete player in the world – he can attack, defend, he can head the ball even though he is small. And then you have Suarez and his first touch in the box is fantastic.”
The two FC Barcelona forwards have 26 goals between them so far this season and have both featured on the goal sheet in four of the last five league games.
Can Neymar and Suarez hurt the Real Madrid defense even without Messi? Share your thoughts in the comments below.