Ansu Fati can light up El Clásico this Sunday, and he’s one of many youngsters who can lead Barcelona’s revival into a new era.
He is fearless and doesn’t feel any pressure, which is a very rare trait for anyone in football, let alone for someone of his age. He’s already proven he can score in El Clásico so he is the man they will turn to on Sunday.
Since Lionel Messi’s departure, Fati has taken the No.10 shirt and he’s just signed a new six-year deal. Fati and Pedri, who also recently signed a new long-term contract, are Barcelona’s future, and tying them down was needed.
So far, Fati has been wearing the No.10 shirt with ease. It’s the heaviest shirt to wear in world football, but it doesn’t phase him. And in a match like El Clásico, that could be crucial. He’s one of those players that’s got goals in him. You know that he’s going to get you goals and in important games as well. And no match in world football is as important as El Clásico.
After spending most of last season on the sidelines, Fati made his first start of 2021/22 at home to Valencia last weekend, scoring an excellent goal from outside the box.
Fati started at left wing with Sergino Dest on the right in what appeared a traditional 4-3-3 on paper, but defensively they were a back five with Dest able to drop in when they lost the ball. No one noticed, so no one criticised Koeman for ‘defensive’ tactics, but if you are Barcelona and you play with five at the back it is a fallacy – and often criticised by fans.
However, I expect Koeman to set up the same way on Sunday afternoon, when Barcelona welcome rivals Real Madrid to the Camp Nou, live on LaLigaTV at 3.15pm BST. Dest will play on the right and will be quick to support defensively against Vinicius Jr – Real Madrid’s young star with a career path seemingly on a similar trajectory to Fati.
Likewise, I expect Carlo Ancelotti to set up very similarly with a defensive right winger in Federico Valverde to deal with the dual threat of Jordi Alba and Fati.
Sharing the wing with Alba means Fati has licence to roam and tuck in, allowing the marauding full-back to overlap and get into dangerous areas. This allows him to play closer to Memphis Depay and even in the glimpses we’ve seen so far this season, Barca fans must be reminded of the link-up between Messi and Luis Suarez in the way Fati plays one-twos with Memphis.
It was very interesting to see them combine, and I’m sure there’s more to come. Fati is probably the main threat now in attack and the main Barcelona threat will come down the left-hand side.
It’ll be clear from the team selection how cautious both managers are, but I think the attacking left-hand side will be the key area where the Clásico is going to be won or lost.
You could see the impact of having Fati back, he’s got that responsibility despite being only 18, and he carries it with confidence. I think that he is one of those special players that we only see once in a while. Barcelona are fortunate to have him.
Another young star that’s central to the future of Barcelona is Gavi. The 17-year-old is the youngest Spain international in history and one of several players from both sides set to make their Clásico debut.
It’s an easy comparison to make but Gavi is quite similar to Pedri, technically excellent and slight in stature, and both are like Andres Iniesta and Xavi. Gavi has got the pace, aggression and dynamism to play the more box-to-box Iniesta role, and he’ll need to add goals to his game to stay in the team.
Like Iniesta, his most impressive trait is his confidence to play forward and risk passes in a very crowded space and not give the ball away. It is exciting because you even see these performances with the national team and when he made his debut in a massive game against Italy.
Italy have been a nightmare to play against and he was a joy to watch alongside Sergio Busquets and Koke. Spain completely dominated the Nations League, even though they didn’t win it. When you see a 17-year-old play like that against the best in the world, you know there’s a special player there.
It’ll take time in his career as he’s only just started, but he will need to find what type of player he wants to be. He is savvy in terms of controlling the game, playing at a slower tempo, and he’s creative as well.
With Gavi and Pedri in midfield, the future is bright for Barcelona, and with Fati in attack the future could be special – starting with Real Madrid on Sunday.
Watch El Clásico on LaLigaTV this Sunday. Coverage begins from 1pm with Gary Lineker hosting LIVE from the Camp Nou alongside Aitor Karanka and Albert Ferrer. Sign up to LaLigaTV with Premier Sports on Sky 435 / Virgin 554 or via streaming with Premier Player and Amazon Prime Video Channels.
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