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Time for Messi to rise again at Real Madrid

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A goal would give him 30 in all comps

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

After plundering 26 goals in El Clasico fixtures, it seems almost inconceivable that Leo Messi hasn’t managed to find the net against Real Madrid since May 2018.

Seven games against the eternal rival have passed since then and, more recently, he hasn’t looked anywhere close to extending his record-breaking tally.

Though there’s always an extra incentive to score against Los Blancos, Saturday’s fixture is arguably more important than any over the last few seasons.

From a personal standpoint, should Messi get one it would give him 30 goals in all competitions for the 13th consecutive campaign.

That’s an astonishing record whichever way you want to dress it up.

Moreover, it could be crucial in helping the Catalans keep their hosts at arm’s length in the league whilst putting maximum pressure on Atleti.

It’s going to be a tough ask even though both Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane are not expected to play any part in the match.

Barca have lost two of the last three Clasicos and score just one goal - Ansu Fati’s last time out.

We are certainly in the best shape to be going into the game, of that there’s no question, though there is a question mark over Ronald Koeman’s tactical ability.

He was completely outclassed by Zinedine Zidane earlier this season and the Frenchman is hardly the best tactical mind in European football.

He does have the knack of getting the best out of his team when it matters, however.

Defensively, it would appear that Gerard Pique is in a race against time to be fit for the match but Ronald Araujo is a perfectly acceptable back-up.

Against the pace of Vinicius Junior and the physicality of Karim Benzema, he might even be the better option on this occasion.

Given the importance of the result, there can be no excuses for an under-par performance from any player. Every single drop of blood, sweat and tears needs to be left out on the Valdebebas pitch.

There’ll be no complaints from culers if that minimum requirement is met.

If there are any passengers on Saturday, then Koeman has to act swiftly and decisively. Not bringing on Riqui Puig with five minutes left and expecting him to work miracles.

It’s true that the season doesn’t depend on this result, but a win will do wonders for team and supporter morale, and, frankly, it’s about time Barca got one over the eternal rival.