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El-Classico: Benzema, Messi in battle of witS

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi is the god of Classico but Karim Benzema has stepped out of the shadow to become Real Madrid’s go-to man and the Frenchman will be keen on outshining the Argentine when Los Blancos welcome Blaugrana to the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano today (Saturday). He isn’t regarded as the god of Clas – sico for nothing; Messi has scored 26 El-Classico goals, more than any player who has featured in this one of the fiercest and biggest football fixtures in the world. If he plays today, he will also be leveling up with Sergio Ramos in the number of appearances. Today will make it 45 times he has faced Los Merengues across all competitions.

He is coming into this fixture as the form man after he singlehandedly guided Barcelona from one of their worst starts to a season to becoming a title contender. Barca had been written off from the title race, the manner with which they lost in the first Clas – sico fixture also suggested they could endure a term destined to end in agony. The heavy cloud around Camp Nou was also exacerbated by the uncertainties around the future of Messi who was hell-bent on leaving the club last summer. La Pulga looks like he is a happy man again and Barcelona have benefited from his calm state of mind as his form since the turn of the year has transformed the club so much so that, a win in this fixture will put them in the driver’s seat for the title.

Since January 1, Messi has scored 16 goals in 13 LaLiga Santander games and he is now the leader for the Pinchichi with 23 goals, four more than Gerard Moreno and Luis Suarez. However, Real Madrid also have their own destiny in their hands as a win in this tie could also catapult them to the summit of the table.

They also had a false start to the season but a remarkable run of form by Benzema has helped Zinedine Zidane’s men to be considered as title contenders. Benzema has 12 goals in 15 games since the turn of the year. Ten of those have come in La- Liga Santander, and it came as a surprise that he didn’t score against Liverpool on Tuesday. Ahead of that game, the No.9 had scored in seven consecutive matches, which was his best run as a Real Madrid player. Getafe, Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Elche, Atalanta, Celta Vigo, and Eibar were all his victims, as he scored nine goals from those seven outings.

The Frenchman has 24 goals in 34 games this season, which is his best goals-per-game average since joining the club. Should he continue scoring at this rate, he’ll beat his 30-goal season and his 27-goal season, as well as his best goalscoring season in which he scored 32 under Jose Mourinho. Benzema’s goals have brought Los Blancos back into the title race, and they’re nicely placed in the Champions League to reach the semi-finals as well. Messi hasn’t scored a Classico goal since his eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid in 2018 and the La Pulga will be keen to end that run and help his side to the title but Benzema may also prove he could be regarded as the main man in Spain with a sublime showing today.

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