Saturday’s El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona sets up to be a title-deciding game with young talent across the pitch. Yes, it is only the tenth game of the season. And, yes, the two clubs will play again later in the LaLiga season. Still, this game carries a heightened importance with the infusion of youth involved. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona are sporting young stars for the first time in this storied rivalry.

For Barcelona, the new era of La Masia is putting its fingerprints on recent performances. Gavi, Alejandro Balde, and Pedri are not new to this game. However, young sensations Lamine Yamal, Marc Guiu, and Fermin Lopez are likely to play in their first editions of the game. Each of these three players has played a role in delivering key victories for the club. Yamal has been the most impressive with consistent displays down the right side. Marc Guiu scored a game-winner just seconds into his debut against Athletic Club. Finally, Fermin Lopez had the eventual winner in Barcelona’s Champions League victory over Shakhtar Donetsk midweek.

Real Madrid is also sporting a young player. Yet, he is already one of the best players in the world. Jude Bellingham made a high-profile move to Real Madrid over the summer from Borussia Dortmund. With his expectations, the Englishman is shattering every predisposition people and pundits had about him. Playing in an attacking midfield role, Bellingham has 11 goals in 12 games across all competitions. The only two games he did not score in are Real Madrid’s only blemishes this season.

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Can Barcelona slow down Bellingham?

Bellingham’s ability exceeds the talents of Barcelona’s youngest players. It helps that he has more years of experience than someone like Lamine Yamal. However, this edition of El Clasico could be a preview of years to come between two impending dynasties in Spain. Players on both sides of this derby had memorable beginnings in El Clasico.

That is the opportunity that lies in front of a player like Bellingham. The golden child for Real Madrid has already earned his praises at the Santiago Bernabeu. Leading Real Madrid to a result in Barcelona would only cement his status as one of its best signings in recent years.

For Real Madrid, that success is rapidly becoming an expectation for the Englishman. It is one thing to point to his braces against Almeria or Osasuna. Look instead to his success against this season’s better LaLiga teams. He scored and assisted against Girona, the club between Real and Barcelona in the table, away from home. He scored against Athletic Club in his debut, also away from home. Bellingham has shown no slowing down when he does not have the boisterous fans of the Santiago Bernabeu. Even in the Champions League, he has scored sensational goals on the road. One in particular stands out against Italian champions Napoli at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

Barcelona’s defense has not been the record-setting figure it was last season, and that should excite Bellingham. In 2022/23, Barcelona conceded just 20 goals. That was 16 fewer than Real Madrid’s last campaign. However, in 2023/24, Barcelona has already given up half that total. Its 10 goals against are only tied for fourth best in the league.

Young stars at Barcelona get reinforcement before El Clasico

Regardless, Barcelona and Xavi have done enough to maintain the only unbeaten record in LaLiga. While those 10 games did produce three draws, the Catalan club has no shortage of creativity. New signing Joao Felix has been instrumental since coming over on loan from Atletico Madrid. Ilkay Gundogan has been a reliable and calming source in the midfield following his move from Manchester City.

Still, for these La Masia graduates, this game shines brighter. It will help to have several players with experience in games of this magnitude on standby. Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski, Frenkie de Jong, and Pedri returned to training this week after stints on the sideline. They are far from guaranteed to start or even play on Saturday. Still, their candidacy to play is a boost for the club.

Moreover, some of the younger players will see it as an opportunity to prove themselves. Throughout his time managing Barcelona, Xavi has made decisions based on form rather than name. It helped Barcelona win the league last year, and he hopes it can pay dividends this year, too. Should he start the young players, he entrusts his confidence in unproven talent. A gamble, but one the teenagers and 20-year-olds at Barcelona surely appreciate.