While Messi scores most of the goals, and Xavi gets most of the touches for FC Barcelona, Andres Iniesta is the most important man on the pitch when it comes to taking down Real Madrid. Iniesta’s creative runs and big-game poise will be critical against an imposing Madrid defense, and if there’s one man most likely to make the game-winning plays for Barcelona on Saturday, it’s Iniesta.
Iniesta takes up position on the attacking edge of midfield. While Xavi tracks back to help bring the ball up, Andrés stays focused on goal, no matter if he’s 35 yards out. Always aware of the opposing defense and the position of his own strikers, by the time Barça get him the ball, Iniesta has an ideal attacking scenario fully formed in his sizable skull.
With dribbling abilities second to none, and a fair amount of quicks remaining in his 27-year-old legs, Iniesta is a pure danger man on the ball. Inviting defenders to close him down too tightly, Iniesta can get past anybody that doesn’t give him enough respect. If space is given, he’ll eat it up quickly, getting as close to goal and attracting as many defenders as possible. When the moment is right, he’ll unleash a dagger through-ball, take a crack of his own, or win a corner kick.
While Messi’s runs are crazed, frenetic attacks that result in goals or lost possession, Don Andrés remains his same steady self in the teeth of the defense. He’s equally capable of finding the open man in the box as he is in 30 yards of space, because he maintains the same level of control at all times. "Poise" is a fantastic descriptor, and when the stakes are raised this quality becomes increasingly important.
Nobody handles the pressure of a big match better than Andés Iniesta. How many big games has Iniesta won for his side? Just last season, it was his decisive runs against Arsenal that got Barcelona through the tie. Before that, his assist to Eto’o won the Champions League in 2009, after his immortal strike in Stamford bridge got Barça there in the first place. And who can forget his Man of the Match performance and game-winning goal on the grandest of all stages: the World Cup Final?
On Saturday, Don Andrés must be looked to early and often to pick apart Madrid’s defense. With Messi likely to attract plenty of attention on the right, Barcelona would do well to swing the ball quickly to Iniesta’s side of the pitch whenever possible. Let the little Manchego work his magic all night long. Judging by his recent performance against Levante, there’s never been a better time to trust Iniesta with the football.
For more on El Clasico, check out the SBNation coverage of Real Madrid vs Barcelona