New faces add fresh twist to Clasico showdown | sports | Hindustan Times
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New faces add fresh twist to Clasico showdown

sports Updated: Oct 26, 2013 00:52 IST

With the world's biggest stars and two richest clubs on show, it is no surprise that when Barcelona and Real Madrid meet the world stops to take notice.

In recent years though the fixture has become less of a treat with 17 meetings between the two in the past three seasons alone.

However, on the brink of their first clash this season on Saturday there is an excitement and freshness brought by the addition of new cast members to the drama.

The protagonists remain the same. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated this fixture as they have practically all others since the Portuguese joined the four-time World Player of the Year in Spain four years ago.

Fresh on the scene
However, both sides have plumped their hopes on a second superstar to supplement the undoubted best two players in the world.

The manner in which Neymar and Gareth Bale arrived at Barca and Madrid respectively has so far marked their impact since arriving in Spain.

Barcelona wisely got their business done early with Neymar signed before last season had even finished. Indeed, Neymar has already helped lift some of the pressure on Messi with three goals and six assists in just nine starts.

Bale, by contrast, had to wait until transfer deadline day to be presented at the Santiago Bernabeu and has paid for his lack of a pre-season with a series of niggling muscle injuries that have hampered his participation so far.

The Welshman has played just 170 minutes across five appearances, starting and scoring just the once.

Despite a completely ineffective cameo appearance as a substitute in Real's 2-1 win over Juventus on Wednesday, Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti insisted that Bale is now ready to start a match following a thigh problem.

The Camp Nou match is also a big test for Ancelotti and Barca boss Gerardo Martino as they too face up to their first taste of the unique pressures a Clasico brings.

Ancelotti brings a far greater wealth of experience having managed in Italy, England and France, but it was Martino who has made the better start to his first job in European football as Barcelona currently lead Madrid by three points atop La Liga.