Barcelona's young gun Ansu Fati to tackle rivals Real Madrid tonight
Barcelona young gun Ansu Fati, 17, relishes the opportunity to tackle rivals Real Madrid tonight; Barca coach Ronald Koeman eyes vindication
Ronald Koeman will know Barcelona can plunge Real Madrid into crisis on Saturday but for him a first Clasico as coach is more about vindication. Inflicting a third consecutive defeat in a week on Madrid at Camp Nou would create the sort of turbulence for their opponents that Barca have grown only too used to in recent months. But as much as cranking up the pressure on Zinedine Zidane and gaining an early boost in La Liga's title race would be welcome, Koeman might claim the biggest rewards from a victory. Barcelona's new coach, appointed in August, has overseen a middling start to the season, with three wins, a draw and a defeat meaning the trajectory of his project is not yet clear.
Barca's young brigade
Most encouraging has been Koeman's faith in youth, which has been repaid handsomely as Ansu Fati, Francisco Trincao and Pedri have all delivered more than expected in attack. Fati, 17, is the most established of the three, and he has set more records by scoring again in the Champions League on Tuesday and has been arguably Barcelona's stand-out performer so far.
"We go into it with the maximum motivation possible," said Fati. "It's a Clasico, a game I have always dreamed of playing in." So impressive has he been that it would be a surprise if Ansu was not in the starting line-up.
But Trincao and Pedri would be braver calls, especially considering those they would replace. The most pressing issue of Koeman's tenure is currently Antoine Griezmann, who is yet to find anything close to top form. Griezmann's problems have not all been of his own making. He was played out of position for much of last season while his controversial arrival prompted speculation about his relationship with teammates and Lionel Messi in particular.
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