Yes. Why wouldn’t he?
The highly-anticipated El Clasico often brings plenty of healthy debate and discussion around what is the greatest hybrid team.
So, here at the Betfred Blog, we thought we would get in on the act with our very own El Clasico XI!
There are a few controversial selections (and player positions) so don’t forget to comment/tweet us with your versions!
Goalkeeper: Marc-Andre ter Stergen
Ok, he may not start in goal for Barcelona in the league but Marc-Andre ter Stergen has shown enough in the Champions League to suggest he probably warrants the gloves. The 23-year-old built a lofty reputation at Borussia Mönchengladbach and he has done little wrong when given a chance between the sticks for Barca.
The German is a brilliant shot-stopper, organises his defence well and has the belief to command his area. It is only a matter of time before he forges himself into contention in the league.
Right (Wing) Back: Dani Alves
Defensively he may not be the strongest (not the best start for a RB) but he is a major threat going forward and has the pace and intelligence to track back and serve his defensive partners well when needed.
He has pace in abundance meaning quick wingers face a tough task to pass him and after martialling the defence with leadership skills for so long, he has made himself a simple pick.
Alvaro Arbeloa is consistent but can be suspect to an overly speedy attacker while Sergio Ramos looks much more comfortable in the centre.
Centre Back: Gerard Pique
Given Gerard Pique has mastered the role of filling in for his often attack-minded full-backs, he looks the sensible choice to slot in next to Alves.
Pique has flourished since leaving Manchester United in 2008 and his defensive intelligence, positional awareness and surprising pace ensures he is in the right place at the right time, more often than not.
He is strong, athletic and doesn’t shirk a challenge on the floor or in the air, so he ranks among the best centre-halves in world football at present.
Wherever, whenever, Alves and Pique are meant to be together. Alves’ll be there and Pique’ll be near, and that’s the deal my dear.
Centre Back: Sergio Ramos
Ball-playing centre-halves are rapidly coming into fashion, which means one of the masters of the art, Sergio Ramos, gets the nod to slot in next to Pique.
Ramos is the man for the big occasion as he has shown so many times in the past, with key goals, such the injury-time Champions League equaliser against rivals Atletico. He is an organiser who settles those either side of him and his pace and timing mean he is difficult to pass.
He offers an attacking threat (like most in this hybrid side) and given his plethora of big game experience, he would be crucial to shoring the side up at the back.
Left (Wing) Back: Gareth Bale
Well, every side needs a shock or two, right?
Theoretically this shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, given the difficulty in ebbing out the Barcelona front three or teammate Ronaldo in an attacking position, yet the Welshman is simply too good to omit from the side completely.
He has plenty of experience in the left-back/left wing-back position thanks to his time at Southampton and Tottenham and he showed he had the discipline to hold fire and ensure defensive duties were covered.
His pace means he can track back in a flash and even if he is caught out of position, he is one of few players who could recover by stretching their legs at full pelt. Getting down the byline would be easy for the supremely fit Real Madrid man and with his technical ability in the final third, he would cause plenty of problems, even from left-back.
Defensive Midfield: Sergio Busquets
It was a tough decision as to who would grace the holding midfield role but given how attacking the side is (Gareth Bale and Dani Alves will need plenty of cover) it makes sense to opt for the extremely disciplined Sergio Busquets.
Toni Kroos almost got the call up thanks to his ability across every role in the centre but it is the perfect fit Busquets who gets the nod. He is strong, intelligent and extremely disciplined, meaning he can drift across and fill in vital roles when his side comes under strong pressure.
He is fantastic at breaking up play with his solid tackling and he is one of few who are very happy to do the simple things and just keep play ticking over. This would be vital with such attacking intent and his calm head and dependability means he would be an unsung but very crucial part of the side.
Centre Midfield: Luca Modric
Next up comes the testing role between the defensive mind of Busquets and creative spark of the attacking midfielder.
There is plenty of pressure on the centre-midfield and given this is where the game can be won and lost, it makes sense to side with the reliable and extremely talented, Luca Modric.
The former Spurs man oozes class in the midfield, often pulling the strings of the Madrid side with the minimum of fuss. He floats around the centre, connecting the defence and attack with eye-of-the-needle balls and he has the intelligence to bring in the wide players which is integral.
He has tremendous technical ability and can cause defences problems with his creativity and accuracy in the final third but he doesn’t shirk duties deeper on the field.
Whether it be teeing up opponents or unleashing strikes from distance, Modric often joins in attacks at the perfect moment and he could be the difference.
Centre Midfield: Andres Iniesta
Well, Andres Iniesta picked himself really, didn’t he? Not literally, because that would be a bit weird, but the Barcelona ever-present simply had to make the side as the creative cog.
Stats don’t always tell the full picture and Iniesta’s involvement is as key as any player in the side as the Spaniard makes the entire side tick from back to front. He has had to make do with playing a little deeper since Xavi bid farewell, but he has come into his own.
The manner in which he plays means there is little emphasis on a physical game, as he gracefully floats between defenders, linking up the forwards with supreme quality.
He creates chances and can put them away when needed, which means this, alongside his wealth of experience, means he gets the nod ahead of James Rodriguez.
Left Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo keeps his place in the side despite real pressure from Neymar. The Brazilian has been arguably the Catalan side’s best player this season but Ronaldo’s big game experience, skill, pace, athleticism, technical ability and well, talent, means that he has to go in the side.
The Portuguese maestro is having a surprisingly quiet season by his standard with only eight league goals thus far but he is slowly warming to Rafael Benitez’s style of play.
He may not have the freedom he used to have but now back out wide, he has shown the manner in which he can run defenders ragged, by turning in onto his right foot or hitting the line and delivering fantastic crosses on his left.
He is one of few genuine ambipedal players in world football and he is the complete footballer. Quick, strong, direct, accurate and can cause problems in the air. He simply has to go in.
Right Forward: Lionel Messi
Next in, on the other flank, is his arch nemesis Lionel Messi. The pair often divide with plenty of debate about who is the best player in the world but we don’t have to worry about that, as the pair can both get in our combined XI.
Messi is quick, agile, direct, a supreme dribbler and has the ability to embarrass the greatest defenders in the world with his movement in and around the box.
Whether it is teeing up teammates or finding the top corner himself, Messi is constantly a danger to the opposition and he is quite simply a pleasure to watch. He is one of the greatest players in the world who comes alive in El Clasico, so plenty will be hoping he is passed fit for this weekend’s game!
Striker: Luis Suarez
The final piece of the jigsaw is Luis Suarez. Where both Barcelona and Madrid had enjoyed a plethora of wide attacking talent over the years, neither side had managed to have an unmistakable front-man.
The likes of Raul and Ronaldo (Brazilian) had long gone and although Karim Benzema is a solid player, he is no Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan has lit up La Liga as he did the Premier League and he loves the chance to prove himself on the world stage.
His strength, intelligence, desire and belief ensure he carves out opportunities were others wouldn’t even try and the fact he brings in other players, often making them look as good, is a huge bonus.
He drags the team to the top with his incredible work ethic and his finishing and attacking instinct is out of this world. He bagged in the reverse fixture last year and he will be confident of adding to his nine La Liga goals already this season as he lines up this weekend!
Odds subject to change.