We are just hours away from the first El Clásico of the 2020/21 season. Barcelona will play host to Real Madrid at the Camp Nou, albeit with no supporters in the stand, in a clash that always attracts global attention.
Frenkie de Jong is still looking for his first win against Los Blancos after failing to do so in his first season in Catalonia. Remember that last year, the Camp Nou clash ended in a goalless draw while Barça lost 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The Dutchman talked to SPORT ahead of the game and he says the team is optimistic.
“Madrid will be a tough rival and it will be a hard game but we believe in ourselves,” De Jong said. “We have a great team and have started the season well, so we are optimistic.”
Of course, with no fans in the stadium, it will surely be different. But even with that being said, this is still the biggest match in the world.
“It’s a shame. It will be different but it’s still the biggest game in the world and I want to feel the sensation of winning a Clásico. Teams like Madrid have some of the best players on the planet and it’s fantastic to fight against them to see who’s best.”
And while it is surely important to the players and the clubs, the supporters live for these moments.
“It’s a different game. The whole world speaks about it for weeks. You notice it in the city when you’re on the streets. People stop you, tell you: ‘The Clásico is this weekend, you have to win, it’s the most important game for us.’ You notice how special it is for everyone.”
Of course, Lionel Messi is often the deciding factor in these games and De Jong believes the team has to do everything to make it easy for him to do his thing.
“It’s good to have a player like him because he’s the best in the world. We know that he score or create a goal from anywhere on the pitch. When he gets the ball between the lines, he can create a chance, score a goal or assist a teammate, so having him is a big advantage for us.”
“You can always give him the ball because he hardly ever loses it. The opposite, I am sure he will generate something. Our job is to make things easy for him to make a difference.”
Barça midfielder Aleña speaks following his first start in nearly a year
Carles Aleña started his first game for Barça in nearly a year. His last start for his boyhood club came in December 2019 against Inter Milan, and Ronald Koeman selected him against Dynamo Kyiv after injuries decimated his squad. After his impressive display, Aleña spoke to the media.
“I’m very happy to return to the field. We played a great game and we took advantage of our chances.”Carles Aleña | Post-match press conference
Aleña ended his ordeal with a near-Man of the Match performance away to the Ukrainians. The Spanish youngster was his team’s metronome and misplaced one solitary pass. His pass map is a joy to behold and the midfielder deserves a lot of recognition for that display.
📸 — Aleñá’s pass map against Kyiv tonight.— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 24, 2020
Not a back-passer at all. pic.twitter.com/Ah5QrsgW3N
At the beginning of the year, Ronald Koeman did not fancy Aleña at all. He and Riqui Puig were ostracised, but the two of them showed a lot of resilience against Kyiv. Hopefully, their coach opens his eyes.
“Playing with the first team requires a lot of hard work.”Carles Aleña | Post-match press conference
We will have to wait and see whether Koeman is on the same page with the fans regarding Aleña’s performance. One thing is clear: the 22-year-old can play a crucial role in the team if used correctly.