It will be a star-studded clash Wednesday when Barcelona hosts Real Madrid in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal. It’s the second El Clasico of the season and the first of three over the next month. Although the game might not be the same with Cristiano Ronaldo now destroying teams in Italy with Juventus, there isn’t a rivalry in Europe that matches these two heated foes in Spain.
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Twenty-two of the finest players on the planet will take center stage for three matches over the next three weeks and change — all of which you can stream via fuboTV (Try for free). In honor of one of the best soccer rivalries on the planet, let’s rank the 22 likely starters for Wednesday’s match.
22. Clement Lenglet, Barcelona: A young defender who is in his first season with the club and needs to get more adjusted to being with such a big team. He has potential but he is certainly the weakest defender on the field.
21. Sergi Roberto, Barcelona: Another young guy, one who is solid but won’t really wow you. He has come up with some big moments in the past thought like that clinching goal against PSG in what was the most epic comeback in Champions League history over two legs.
20. Lucas Vazquez, Real Madrid: Lucas has represented Spain and he is a fine player, but he’s far from the level you expect of a Real Madrid attacker. He has just four goals this season in 30 appearances.
19. Arthur, Barcelona: The former Gremio man is in his first season with Barca and has yet to score, but he’s creative on the ball, knows how to get the ball into space and has star written all over him.
18. Gerard Pique, Barcelona: A good defender who knows how to use his size. He has certainly lost a step at 32 years of age, but he is still a good form and can contribute in attack on set pieces.
17. Dani Carvajal, Real Madrid: A rock at right back for this team, he’s certainly one of the better right backs in Europe. He can get forward but where he shines is defending, especially one on one. He’s not afraid to go in strong on any player.
16. Ivan Rakitic, Barcelona: Rakitic has long been underrated, but he comes through time and time again. Sure, he may contribute next to nothing defensively, but he can put one away at any moment and has a good bond with his teammates on the field. There are just much better players.
15. Toni Kroos, Real Madrid: The German can do it all. He is an elegant passer, can fire home during the run of play or from set pieces and has been a fantastic signing since arriving from Bayern Munich in 2014.
14. Casemiro, Real Madrid: Casemiro is a player who you may not appreciate, but he does so many things so well. His ability to read passes, force players one way and get the ball forward to start the counter are super impressive. He just gets outshined by playing in a midfield where he isn’t the star.
13. Keylor Navas, Real Madrid: Not a bad backup goalkeeper to have, right? Just a Champions League legend who won three straight finals with the club. The Costa Rican is still one of the world’s best and gets to play in the cup since that’s how it’s usually done for domestic cups.
12. Gareth Bale, Real Madrid: When he’s not injured, he is a top 10-15 player in the world. So why 12th in this game? Well, he picks up an injury every year that slows down his production. In league play, he has five goals in 17 matches, but he is on 11 so far this season. He is flashy as we saw in the Champions League final, but he just doesn’t stay on the field enough.
11. Jordi Alba, Barcelona: Still underrated, Alba gets forward with ease, defends well even though he is on the smaller side when it comes to size, and he is just always on the same page with the attackers. A great player who has been one of the best over the last five years.
10. Raphael Varane, Real Madrid: If you wanted to build the perfect defender when it comes to size and skill, it’s Varane. He is a machine that can do absolutely everything but at times will make a costly mistake. The World Cup winner is just 25 years of age and in the next few years he’ll likely be viewed as the game’s top centerback as he enters his prime.
9. Karim Benzema, Real Madrid: A forgotten man at times due to off-the-field issues and struggles on it, Benzema is currently in the middle of a fantastic campaign where he has 18 goals, six more than all of last season. And he’s doing it a variety of ways — inside the box, outside the box. Benz is back with six goals in his last four matches.
8. Sergio Busquets, Barcelona: No. 1 on the list of most least entertaining players to watch, Busquets won’t make you want to come back for more. At times, it’s as if he is playing in slow motion, but his ability to use his body to shield off players and make the right moves to play the ball to the open man is what makes him a world-class talent. You have to fully understand the sport to be able to appreciate him.
7. Philippe Coutinho, Barcelona: More about potential than anything, the jury is still out on Coutinho since his move from Liverpool. He’s got 18 goals in 54 games and has produced some absolutely magical strikes from outside the box. He’s just been inconsistent and perhaps lacking confidence.
6. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, Barcelona: Normally, he wouldn’t even be playing cup games. But the injury to Jasper Cillessen sees Barca’s starter likely play in this one. That’s quite the boost as he is one of the world’s best. Cillessen would have been ranked somewhere between 15-20 on this list.
5. Marcelo, Real Madrid: He’s the best left-back of the last decade. Nearing 500 matches played, there isn’t anything he can’t do. He’s got the Brazilian flair, stamina like an iron man. He can do damage in the final third and is lethal for a defensive-minded player.
4. Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid: Ramos would be third on the list if it wasn’t for fearing he’ll get a red card every time he is on the field. In his career, he has 24 red cards. But the most telling stat of his career isn’t on the defensive end. He’s a center back who has 105 goals in his career. One of the very best.
3. Luis Suarez, Barcelona: The Uruguayan striker is still an elite goal-scorer. He’s averaged 35.5 goals per season over the last six years. He’s on pace for a tick under 30 goals this season and has scored nine goals in 12 matches for Barca against Real. A nightmare to face, especially for Los Blancos.
2. Luka Modric, Real Madrid: The best player at the 2018 World Cup and the reigning Ballon d’Or winner. Both of those are usually reserved for Messi and Ronaldo. The Croatian veteran had an amazing 2018 and is still the heart and soul of that Real Madrid midfield, but doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his quality because of his position.
1. Lionel Messi, Barcelona: The world’s best player over the last decade-plus. Lionel Messi holds the record for most goal in El Clasico history with 26, and holds an eight-goal gap between him and second place on that list. He has again and again been able to punish Real in a variety of ways. Twenty-six goals in 39 matches is incredible, and Messi seems to live for those moments.