Next generation 'clasico': Bellingham faces 1st game against a Barcelona brimming with young talents

AP , Thursday 26 Oct 2023

Jude Bellingham has blossomed into a clinical scorer since joining Real Madrid. Now his team hopes Bellingham will be fully fit when he faces his first “clasico” match at Barcelona on Saturday.

Real Madrid s English midfielder #5 Jude Bellingham celebrates at the end of the UEFA Champions League 1st round day 3 Group C football match between SC Braga and Real Madrid CF at the Municipal stadium of Braga on October 24, 2023. AFP


The England midfielder is on scoring streak with 11 goals in 12 matches so far this campaign, compared to 14 goals in all of last season for German side Borussia Dortmund.

Bellingham appeared to be bothered by a leg problem when he was substituted after scoring his latest goal in a 2-1 win at Braga in the Champions League on Tuesday. Coach Carlo Ancelotti, however, said immediately after the victory that it was nothing serious.

“He’s all right,” Ancelotti said. “He was feeling it a little bit in his abductors because it was a soft pitch. He’s a little tired but that’s to be expected.”

Madrid tops the Spanish league level on points with Girona, with Barcelona one point behind in third place going into the game between the fierce rivals. Atletico Madrid is also fourth at three points back.

If he is in top form, Bellingham should once again be the focus of an attack that has been prolific despite losing Karim Benzema this summer.

Barcelona also has several injury doubts. Top scorer Robert Lewandowski, who has six goals overall, has missed the last three games with an ankle injury, while midfielders Pedri Rodríguez and Frenkie de Jong, winger Raphinha and Jule Koundé have also been sidelined.

Coach Xavi Hernández would not say if he expects to have these players back on Saturday.

“We won’t force anyone (to come back too soon). They have to be 100 percent ready,” Xavi said after Barcelona beat Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The absences of those regular starters has had an upside: it has allowed Barcelona to give opportunities to the latest young talents to emerge from its La Masia youth academy.

Midfielder Fermín López, 20, was the team’s best player against Shakhtar, scoring a goal and hitting the woodwork twice. That came four days after 17-year-old Marc Guiu became the second-youngest player this century to score on his league debut when he netted in a 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao.

Not to forget 16-year-old Lamine Yamal, who is adding up records after becoming the youngest player to score for both Barcelona and Spain in recent weeks.

Ferran Torres and newcomer João Félix, both 23 years old, have also made the most of their chances to start in attack with Lewandowski and Raphinha out, combining for eight goals.

All in all, this “clasico” promises to be a game featuring a new generation of players for both sides with Madrid relying on Bellingham (20), Vinícius Júnior (23), and Eduardo Camavinga (20), and Barcelona able to counter with its own crop of youngsters.

It will be the first “clasico” Barcelona plays after the exit of Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, the last pillars of its golden era when it won everything with Lionel Messi and Xavi as a player. For Madrid, Ancelotti will have to decide how to use Luka Modric, the 38-year-old former Ballon d'Or winner, who has lost his set place in the starting 11 since the arrival of Bellingham.


Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez reportedly won’t accompany the team, as he normally does to games against Barcelona, after relations between the powerhouses — who remain aligned behind the frustrated Super League plan — have been strained by off-the-field controversies.

Madrid and Barcelona have been estranged by the scandal of Barcelona’s payment of millions of euros over several years to a former referee working in the Spanish soccer federation. The case is being investigated by a judge.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has denied any wrongdoing by the club and said it is all witch hunt that favors Madrid.

Tension also increased after Barcelona board member Miquel Camps posted a message on X, formerly known as Twitter, this week calling Vinícius a “clown,” apparently for his playing style during the game at Braga.

Camps later erased the message, and Barcelona spokesman Rafa Yuste called it “inappropriate."


Barcelona’s players will wear special shirts for the game featuring the Rolling Stones' iconic “hot lips” logo in place of its normal shirt sponsor.

Barcelona, which has a sponsorship deal with audio-streaming service Spotify, has worn special shirts for recent “clasicos” featuring the logos of Spanish pop star Rosalía and Canadian rapper Drake.

The game will be the first “clasico” at Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium, where Barcelona is playing this season while Camp Nou is remodeled.


Girona can move provisionally into the league lead if it gets at least a point against Rafa Benítez’s struggling Celta Vigo on Friday.

Atletico hosts Alaves on Sunday with Antoine Griezmann having scored seven goals in the league, only one fewer Bellingham.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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