As Karim Benzema went on a goalscoring flurry that helped Real Madrid to a Champions League and La Liga double ultimate season, competitors Barcelona have been hanging their very own plans in position to battle firepower with firepower, prolific ahead with prolific ahead.
Benzema netted 44 occasions in 46 appearances in all competitions at a price of 0.96 objectives in keeping with sport to make himself the frontrunner for this yr’s Ballon d’Or.
So Barcelona moved for some other of this era’s most famous quantity nines in Robert Lewandowski, a participant who reached part a century of objectives in a Bayern Munich blouse ultimate time period at a price of one.09 in keeping with sport.
For the primary time on Sunday, when Real Madrid host Barcelona on the Bernabeu, Benzema and Lewandowski glance set to steer the road in opposition to each and every different in El Clasico.
The unbeaten competitors sit down stage on the summit of La Liga, with Barcelona best on function distinction and 34-year-old Lewandowksi main the scoring charts with 9 objectives in 8 video games.
“Robert Lewandowski has been very influential this season for Barcelona,” former Barcelona and Spain defender Albert Ferrer tells BBC Sport.
“Lewandowski just does something to the team that they didn’t have. Apart from scoring goals and being in the box most of the time, he is very important – his movement, how he talks to players, how he tells them what space to occupy.
“He is principally for 90 mins serving to gamers, shifting and growing areas and telling gamers the place they should be and what they have got to do. His influence is huge, no longer handiest on account of the objectives.”
Barcelona could also be at the verge of exiting the Champions League at the group stages, but in Spain’s top flight they have conceded only once and Poland international Lewandowski has benefited from manager Xavi’s more direct approach and the supply from wingers such as Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha.
“They are excellent on the offensive transitions, the counter-attacks, hanging crosses into the field. Now they have got an actual finisher with Lewandowksi,” says Ferrer, who leads La Liga TV’s tactical analysis and will be covering the game in Madrid.
“In midfield they do not spend as a lot time as they did, so they’re lovely direct. Direct does not imply lengthy balls, however Gavi and Pedri getting the ball and right away taking a look ahead as a substitute of sideways. They have develop into extra vertical, extra direct.”
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real were cantering towards the title when they lost 4-0 to a resurgent Barcelona in this fixture last season, without talisman Benzema.
“It used to be a crisis,” says Ferrer. “They modified their ways and they modified the whole lot. I do not believe that will occur this season.”
Two of Barcelona’s goals were scored by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during his brief stint at the club – before moving to Chelsea once he was effectively replaced by Lewandowski in the summer.
“Aubameyang is a smart participant in relation to completing – he’s at all times within the field,” says Ferrer. “But Lewandowski does extra. He is in a position to drop to the midfield and create areas, to hyperlink with gamers, dangle the ball along with his frame.
“He can do more than just finish; he is more influential in more parts of the game than Aubameyang. He is in that sense more of a complete striker and he is perfect for Barcelona.”
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Benzema returned after the rout by means of Barcelona ultimate season, which used to be extra a dent to Real’s satisfaction than their place, to play a key function of their home and Champions League good fortune.
This marketing campaign additionally started with the Frenchman scoring within the Uefa Super Cup ultimate win and develop into the membership’s 2d best possible all-time scorer, in the back of Cristiano Ronaldo, however issues have since stalled for 34-year-old Benzema on account of harm.
The captain neglected two league video games, together with the Madrid derby in opposition to Atletico, with a thigh downside, then picked up a knock that dominated him out of Real’s victory over Getafe ultimate week.
Benzema has scored 3 times in 5 La Liga video games this time period however, whilst his goalscoring exploits are the headline within the clamour for him to say a maiden Ballon d’Or, he gives an all-round package deal.
Despite enjoying fewer video games than Lewandowski, he has created extra probabilities in La Liga (13 to twelve) and is averaging 2.3 extra touches within the opposition field in keeping with 90 mins.
“Lewandowski has a lot of good things, mainly finishing, but all the other movements he does, he does without the ball,” says Ferrer.
“Benzema can score goals, but when he drops, when he links with midfielders, when he drops to the left to link with Vinicius Jr, he is very technical with the ball at his feet. He can create by himself.
“That is the principle distinction. With the ball, Benzema can do extra issues most likely than Lewandowski. Without the ball, Lewandowski is most likely higher.”
Benzema’s influence on the squad is vital and he has facilitated the progress of some of the club’s young stars, such as Vinicius, Rodrygo and Federico Valverde, as well as France midfielders Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni.
“Karim has one thing bizarre,” says Ferrer. “The previous two or 3 seasons he used to be the most productive participant at the pitch, however he confirmed two large gamers find out how to develop – one prior to the opposite, which is Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo.
“This year he is possibly not as influential or important as Lewandowski is for Barcelona, but all the players grew alongside Benzema. They have hugely improved so they have made Benzema not as influential as last season.
“This season did not get started as anticipated – everybody anticipated him to be preventing with Lewandowski in relation to the Pichichi (awarded to La Liga’s best goalscorer). At the instant he’s too some distance from him.
“I am sure he will bounce back. The past few seasons Benzema has been possibly the best striker in Europe.”