Is this the most important Clasico EVER? Bernabeu clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona is crucial in the LaLiga title race… but 10 stars are also playing for their futures in the biggest game of the season in Spain
- Real Madrid take on fierce rivals Barcelona in El Clasico on Sunday evening
- Hosts go into the game with a chance to leapfrog Barca at the top of the table
- The game is also hugely important for a number of individuals on both teams
- Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric all need to impress at the Bernabeu
- Samuel Umtiti, Nelson Semedo and Arthur Melo are yet to convince at Barca
Sunday’s Clasico in Spain could go a long way to deciding who wins LaLiga this season, but this season’s meeting of the two sides at the Bernabeu will have even longer-term implications.
Rarely has a Clasico involved so many players playing for their futures. There are doubts over individuals on both sides and a poor performance in the biggest game of the season will be remembered this summer when the clubs shake-up their squads.
Here, Sportsmail looks at the players whose futures will be on the line on Sunday night.
Lionel Messi runs at Real Madrid’s Rodrygo during the first Clasico of the season in December
Real Madrid will jump a point ahead of their fierce rivals Barcelona if they win on Sunday night
He was struggling on Wednesday against Manchester City and increasingly there is a sense at Madrid that his place in the team only goes unchallenged because there is no-one to step into the right back berth.
That will not be the case next season when the club welcome back Achraf Hakimi from his very successful loan spell at Borussia Dortmund.
The 21-year-old is most people’s tip to become Real Madrid’s first choice right back next season and anything less than a top performance from Carvajal will strengthen that opinion.
Dani Carvajal could find himself out of Real Madrid’s starting XI when Achraf Hakimi returns
He left the Bernabeu on Wednesday night looking less than happy, telling reporters that there was nothing physically wrong with him when asked why he had been left out of the biggest game of the season so far.
Something seems broken in the German midfielder’s relationship with Zinedine Zidane. Either it gets fixed soon or big clubs will be circling to take one of the finest passers in football.
It may be that the famously pragmatic Zidane brings Kroos back for the Clasico. If he leaves him out again, a chasm could open up between player and coach, making a departure in the summer more than likely.
Toni Kroos did not feature against Manchester City on Wednesday despite being fit to play
Like fellow Croatia international Ivan Rakitic at Barcelona, Modric has nothing left to prove at his club. But all that he has achieved in the past will not stop the club moving him on in the summer.
His contract talks have until now been shrouded in mystery. It has been hinted many times that a long-term deal to update his current agreement that ends in 2021 is signed. But it seems there is still no ink on paper.
He will be 35 at the start of next season and it may be time for a lucrative swansong somewhere else. An underwhelming display in what could be his last Clasico would move that end game a little closer.
Luka Modric could leave Real Madrid this summer as he enters the final years of his career
One of Bale’s regular critics, Pedja Mijatovic, said on Wednesday night on Spanish radio Cadena Ser: ‘I never expected him to play [against City]. For a long time now he has not offered anything.’
The former Real Madrid player and sporting director has long argued that Madrid need to look beyond Bale.
Zidane left him on the bench in midweek, bringing him on to replace the tiring Vinicius in the second half. In another injury-troubled season, Bale has not scored at home since September. He has two goals to his name and has only played the full 90 minutes in LaLiga six times.
It would be a surprise if he started the game and for as long as Zidane shows no faith in him, it is hard to see how he gets back to his best.
Will an underwhelming showing as a substitute edge him closer to the door? He still has that long contract and a salary that few clubs can match.
Real Madrid might have to let him leave on a free this summer if Zidane stays and really has no intention of using him.
Gareth Bale continues to be criticised in Spain after yet another injury-plagued season
He made an impressive start to the season but has faded in front of goal, scoring just once since the turn of the year.
He’s a favourite of Zidane’s and president Florentino Perez, so it would not be true to say he is playing for his future. But those who say he rarely delivers in the season-decisive games will have a field day if he draws a blank on Sunday and Real Madrid are beaten by Barcelona.
It’s a huge game for the team but it’s a massive game for their French centre forward too. He might not be part of an end of season cull, but he could find the club spending more money on someone who will effectively replace him.
Karim Benzema has a reputation for going missing in Real Madrid’s most important matches
The view on Umtiti is almost universal – if he was 100 per cent fit all the time, he would be the perfect Barcelona defender.
He uses the ball well and has the pace to react to quick transitions from the opposition. But the physical problems he suffers with seem to be a condition of his performances.
He is expected to start on the bench on Sunday, but if he does make the first team, the spotlight will be on him to show that he is still the future of the Barcelona back four.
Samuel Umtiti’s injury problems mean he is not assured of a place in Barcelona’s first team
So much talent but so little consistency. Neither Quique Setien, nor his predecessor Ernesto Valverde, have seemed entirely convinced.
Lionel Messi likened Arthur to Xavi last season, but there are doubts over whether he has the Barcelona legend’s levels of application and durability.
He has not played a complete 90 minutes since November and if he gets a full game on Sunday he needs to produce a big performance.
Lionel Messi once compared Arthur Melo to Xavi but he has failed to live up to the hype
Rakitic has nothing left to prove after all he has won at the club, but a big display would still help those who want to keep him make their arguments this summer.
Lots would prefer to see him sold. He will be 32 in March and the club are reluctant to extend his contract that runs out in 2021, or lose him for nothing when it does.
Ivan Rakitic could be on his way out of Barcelona as the club look to avoid losing him for free
The shadow of Dani Alves still looms very large at Barcelona. Semedo popped up with an Alves-style assist in midweek against Napoli but they have been few and far between this season.
He is not first on the exit ramp but there are doubts that will increase if he fails to handle Vinicius and can’t get forward effectively at the Bernabeu.
Atletico Madrid and Valencia were interested in him last summer, but were told he was not for sale. A bid this year might not be turned down.
Nelson Semedo was a target for LaLiga giants Atletico Madrid and Valencia last summer
‘Just not good enough to play for Barca’ was the verdict of some supporters after his mistake gifted Napoli a goal in the Champions League in midweek.
The 23-year-old, who signed last summer from Real Betis, is currently in the team ahead of the injured Jordi Alba.
He can convince the doubters on Sunday if he plays well, or bolster the view that his signing has not worked out and that the club need to look elsewhere.
Junior Firpo has a chance to get his critics off his back with a good display at the Bernabeu
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