Never an exhibition: Real, Barca about to clash in pre-season Clasico

23 Jul 2022 | 08:40 | Football

Ousmane Dembele in action with Luka Modric on March 2, 2019. Photo: Reuters


Ousmane Dembele in action with Luka Modric on March 2, 2019. Photo: Reuters

Barcelona take on Real Madrid in a Clasico pre-season friendly in Las Vegas on Saturday, promising to provide a glimpse into the future of the Spanish giants’ iconic rival.

Flamboyant gambling in the Nevada desert is more often associated with hosting blockbuster heavyweight boxing competitions than with clashes between members of the European football aristocracy.

But at least for one night, with just a stone’s throw from the shimmering neon lights of the Vegas Strip, a stunning match will draw the top as Barca and Real go head to head at the 65,000-capacity Allegiant Stadium, home ground of the Las Vegas Raiders NFL team. .

The friendly look is set to provide a taste of what the next chapter of the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid could look like.

With the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo long away from Barcelona and Real respectively, a flurry of new signings will be in the spotlight as the two teams take to the field for a game that kicks off at 8pm local time (0300 GMT). Sunday) .

The friendly could mark the first Clasico confrontation between Real’s veteran French star Karim Benzema and Barcelona rookie Robert Lewandowski.

Benzema joined Real in Los Angeles this week after being given an extended break by the club.

Benzema’s superb performances – and goals – were largely responsible for Real’s 14th European Champions League win in May.

Despite previous reports that Benzema would not feature in Saturday’s Clasico, coach Carlo Ancelotti chose the striker to lead the squad in a practice game at UCLA Campus on Thursday, alongside Federico Valverde and Brazilian star Vinicius.

Ancelotti is also likely to offer new signings Antonio Rudiger, who joined English club Chelsea, and former Monaco centre-back Aurelien Tchouameni.

“The signings bring great quality to the squad,” Ancelotti said this week.

“They are in the best shape we can find on the market. Rudiger is a great centre-back and Tchouameni is fantastic, very young and with a lot of potential.”

‘Never was an exhibition’

Ancelotti has hinted that he could use Real’s three-match tour of the US as an opportunity to test his forward line, citing an unusual mid-season hiatus to come this year due to The first World Cup was held in the middle of Europe. football calendar.

“Benzema is the first choice but we have to understand that it will be a strange season, with the World Cup going on and we have to look at different options,” said Ancelotti.

One of those options could involve deploying Eden Hazard as a false nine, said Ancelotti.

While many pre-season games often feel like glorified practice games, Ancelotti stressed that the mutual aversion between Real and Barcelona ensures that Saturday’s clash will have an edge.

“It will be a very, very competitive game. It is never an exhibition against Barcelona. It will be a spectacle,” said Ancelotti.

Ancelotti’s Barcelona partner, Xavi Hernandez, will also have the opportunity to run the club’s summer signings.

Bayern Munich sharpshooter Lewandowski is a takeover for the club, but Barcelona have also invested heavily to bring in Brazilian striker Raphina from Leeds as well as midfielder Franck Kessie from AC Milan and defender Andreas Christensen from Chelsea.

Lewandowski was made his Barcelona debut on Wednesday but did not feature in the 6-0 thrashing of Inter Miami the night before.

The Polish star is hungry to work with his new teammates and could be geared up for his Clasico debut on Saturday.

“I’ve always been hungry for success and have a winning mentality,” Lewandowski said this week. “This is a new challenge for me and I’ve seen this as a team with huge potential.

“There are a lot of qualities and I want to do my best for the club. I’m ready.”