Three key battles between Real Madrid and Barcelona which could decide El Clasico

It's that time once again tonight, as Real Madrid host Barcelona in the first El Clasico of the La Liga season.

Barcelona and Real Madrid renew their long-standing rivalry tonight as the Catalan giants travel to the Spanish capital to face Carlo Ancelotti's side.

Hosts Madrid currently sit in third place in the table with 18 points from eight games, racking up six wins so far. With 30 goals scored, it's clear that they possess devastating attacking prowess, but defeats already is slightly surprising from Los Blancos.

Meanwhile, Barca sit top of the table with 22 points from eight games, as new manager Luis Enrique has earned seven wins and a draw so far this term.

The two gargantuan sides of Spanish football go head to head yet again tonight, and here are the three key battles which could decide the contest.

Lionel Messi v Luka Modric/Toni Kroos

It's a given that Barcelona's Argentine dynamo Messi will be key to their hopes of earning a win, and Real Madrid must have a plan to stop him. In Luis Enrique's 4-3-1-2 system, Messi plays as a No. 10, meaning that someone in the Real midfield must pick him up and nullify his threat. Neither Kroos nor Modric are known for being true holding midfielders, and they will to be disciplined in front of the back four in order to keep Messi quiet.

Cristiano Ronaldo v Dani Alves

With Gareth Bale out, Ancelotti will go with a constantly interchanging attacking midfield trio of James Rodriguez, Isco and Cristiano Ronaldo, but it's expected that Ronaldo will regularly pick the ball up from the left as he regularly does. Much has been made over Dani Alves' recent decline and imminent exit from Barcelona, and the Brazilian will have his hands full trying to cope with Ronaldo, whose goalscoring form shows no signs of slowing down.

James Rodriguez v Sergio Busquets

Isco and James Rodriguez are likely to feature prominently through the centre, and after the Colombian's goalscoring exploits at the World Cup, he could be a potential game winner for Madrid. He would be coming up against arguably the best defensive midfielder in the world in Sergio Busquets, whose defensive qualities in front of the back four will be need to keep the former Monaco playmaker off the scoresheet.

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