The La Liga fixtures were released on Thursday 24th of July, and of course the first fixtures discussed were the dates for El Clasico. The meetings between Barcelona and Real Madrid have always been key fixtures in the season but they should become even more exciting in 2014-15 due to the world class players that have been brought into the clubs over the summer as well as the key players they already possess.
The dates for the El Clasico in the coming season are the 26th of October in the Santiago Bernabéu and the 22nd of March at the Nou Camp. The first game comes just in time for new Barcelona striker Luis Suarez to make his debut after his four month ban finishes the day before the fixture.
However, whether he would be able to make his full debut at that point or if he will just play a bit-part in the game, we will just have to wait and see. Barcelona have also brought in Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic from Sevilla and French defender Jeremy Mathieu from Valencia.
Real Madrid have also done some great business in the transfer window after bringing in players such as German midfielder Toni Kroos and Colombian star James Rodriguez. It seems as though it could be a great battle between the two teams but who exactly at this point seems to have the upper hand? Let’s take a look at the players who could have an important role to play in the El Clasicos in the 2014-15 season.
The Argentine genius has proved time and time again his worth to the Catalan side and is one player that loves to score against Barcelona’s biggest rivals. The attacking wizard has scored a whopping 21 times in El Clasico fixtures, which makes him the all time highest scorer in El Clasicos, ahead of the great Alfredo Di Stefano.
The first time that Lionel Messi netted in an El Clasico, he didn’t just score once but went on to net a hat trick in a game that ended 3-3 in March 2007. Messi also scored a hat trick in his last El Clasico appearance but it was much more impressive this time as he helped his side win 4-3 at the Bernabéu in March 2014.
Iniesta opened the scoring but Benzema scored twice to make it 2-1 to Madrid. Lionel Messi stepped up to score the equaliser before Los Blancos scored from the spot. The Argentine was then handed the responsibility to net two penalties to give his side the win but even though this sounds like a thrilling game, it was marred by diving and unprofessional play. If this year’s El Clasico games can produce a thrilling game then a fully fit Lionel Messi is one player you can rely on to play his part in it.
The 22-year-old Brazilian will be motivated to prove a point in his second season at Barcelona after he suffered a serious back injury in the World Cup semi-finals. Neymar played in 26 La Liga games last season and he scored nine times while also providing eight assists for his side.
One of his most important goals last season came in an El Classico fixture as he netted the opener in the Nou Camp fixture. The goal came about after Iniesta made a fantastic run into the Madrid box before passing it out to Neymar on the left who placed it into the bottom right corner from a difficult angle.
The youngster is fearless and will attempt to run at any defence, which makes him a threat to Real Madrid who don’t have the greatest defence in La Liga. The Brazilian is still quite young and living in Messi’s shadow but don’t rule him out of having another special moment in an El Clasico game.
The controversial striker moved to Barcelona this summer after the Catalan giants agreed a £75m fee with Liverpool. Controversies aside, there is no doubting the quality of the Uruguayan as he is capable of scoring from anywhere on the pitch, during his time at Liverpool we saw him score tap-ins from five yards, 20 yard free kicks and even an outstanding 35 yard strike against Norwich last season.
The striker scored a whopping 31 goals for Liverpool last season even though he missed the first five games through suspension and we all expect him to score plenty of goals for Barcelona once he has finished his lengthy ban. We will have to wait until October to see if Luis Suarez will make his debut for his new club in an El Clasico fixture but if he stays injury free and out of trouble then we will definitely see him in the March fixture.
The Uruguayan’s ability to score from anywhere, his quick feet, his skill as well as lining up with the likes of Messi and Neymar is something that the Real Madrid defence will dread facing.
The Ronaldo vs Messi argument has been going on ever since Ronaldo made his big money move to Madrid, but since then the two clubs have become so much more than just about these two fantastic players.
The FIFA Ballon d’Or winner scored nine goals in his last ten El Clasico’s but has scored twelve times altogether in these fixtures. Ronaldo shone in the fixtures in 2012 as the two clubs faced each other a record six times in one season as they played against each other in La Liga, a two legged quarter-final in the Copa del Rey and two meetings in the Spanish Cup.
During these fixtures, Ronaldo scored an impressive seven goals as Real Madrid went on to win La Liga and the Spanish Cup. Ronaldo is so important to this Real Madrid side so it is more than likely that he will play an important part in how the El Clasico games go in the 2014-15 season.
In his first season at Real Madrid, Bale scored 21 times and made 16 assists in 39 appearances in all competitions, which is quite impressive considering he missed parts of the season due to different injuries. Bale settled in Spain much quicker than people anticipated and has become an instant hit with the Real Madrid fans by scoring important goals, such as his impressive header in the Champions League final last May.
Another important goal that he scored came in an El Clasico fixture in the Copa del Rey final when he made an outstanding run in the 85th minute, outpacing the Barcelona defence, and slotted home the winner.
Bale also won Man of the Match for this fixture and proved that at 25 he was going to be an important player for Real Madrid now and in the coming seasons. The Welsh star has one successful season under his belt and will now be looking to improve in the 2014-15 season. Out doing Madrid’s biggest rivals will surely be on his to-do list also.
The Colombian star stole the spotlight in this summer’s World Cup by becoming the competition’s top goal scorer and helping his country to the last eight of the competition. This was enough to showcase his talent as he made a big money move to mega rich Real Madrid this July.
The 23-year-old has proved himself at club level also as he scored nine times and created twelve assists in 34 appearances in the French Ligue 1 last season for Monaco. The youngster should adapt quickly and has shown that he thrives while under pressure, his incredible performance against Uruguay in the round of 16 in the World Cup is testament to this.
The Colombian will add pace, skill, shooting accuracy and a great overall attacking ability to his new side while playing alongside stars such as Bale and Ronaldo, a frightening prospect for any opposition.
Overall, Barcelona and Real Madrid have strengthened their sides even further through their summer transfers and may not be finished yet as there is a few weeks left yet before the window closes . The two sides have strengthened the attacking options in their squads but where they need to focus on is in defensive areas.
Real Madrid were full of goals going forward last season but often failed to protect their lead, conceding 38 times. Barcelona also gave away goals in the majority of their games last term, ending up with 33 in the against column.
Scoring plenty of goals against weaker teams in La Liga may work for both of these sides but when they face each other it will be difficult for one team to outdo the other because both sides have such impressive attacking players who will create plenty of chances.
Whichever side improves the most in the defensive areas of their squad will be seen as having the upper hand. Although, if neither improve on the defensive side of the game then expect many goals in next season’s El Clasico fixtures as their attacking forces are shaping up to be the most powerful in Europe.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena.