‘Clasico’ perfect stage for Bale, Neymar

MADRID. The 167th La Liga ‘Clasico’ between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Nou Camp on Saturday could be the ideal stage for Gareth Bale and Neymar to show they are worth a combined price tag of almost €160 million.
Bale
Bale

MADRID. The 167th La Liga ‘Clasico’ between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Nou Camp on Saturday could be the ideal stage for Gareth Bale and Neymar to show they are worth a combined price tag of almost €160 million.

Or, as is more likely, one of the most intense rivalries in football and a match watched by hundreds of millions around the world will again showcase the peerless talents of Barca’s Argentine World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and Real’s Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

Leaders Barca dropped their first points of the campaign with a 0-0 draw at Osasuna last weekend and victory for Real, as well as providing a huge confidence boost, would put them level with their bitter rivals on 25 points from 10 games.

Wales winger Bale replaced Ronaldo as the most expensive player in history when he joined Real from Tottenham Hotspur for a fee of €100 million in the close season, while Barca paid some €57 million to lure Brazil forward Neymar from Santos.

Bale’s first weeks in the Spanish capital have been disrupted by injury but coach Carlo Ancelotti hinted that the 24-year-old could feature from the start against Barca after coming on as a second-half substitute in Wednesday’s 2-1 Champions League victory at home to Juventus.

Neymar, 21, has shown glimpses of the brilliance that has served his country so well in recent years - he scored the goal against Atletico Madrid that secured the Spanish Super Cup at the end of August - without really catching fire.

Playing in the Brazilian league has given him a taste of the frenzied nature of a nation’s biggest derbies and he is fully aware of what is at stake on Saturday, beyond the three points.

“I don’t think there is any need to explain what this match is all about,” he told Barca’s television channel on Wednesday.

“A ‘clasico’ is the pinnacle for any player. It’s the game everyone wants to play in and demonstrate their best football. “This will be my first and I want to make a great debut, preferably with a victory.”

Saturday’s match will also give Barca coach Gerardo Martino and Ancelotti their first taste of Spain’s ‘Clasico’.

Argentine Martino and Italian Ancelotti, both hugely experienced and unlikely to be fazed by the occasion, are still tinkering with squads they inherited from Tito Vilanova and Jose Mourinho in the close season.

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