Real Madrid’s Bellingham faces 1st game vs Barca brimming with young talents

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Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham gestures to the crowd at the end of the Champions League group C soccer match between SC Braga and Real Madrid at the Municipal stadium in Braga, Portugal . (AP )

BARCELONA, Spain, Oct 26, (AP): Jude Bellingham has blossomed into a clinical scorer since joining Real Madrid. Now his team hopes Bellingham will be fully fit when he faces his first “clasico” match at Barcelona on Saturday.

Girona can move provisionally into the league lead if they get at least a point against Rafa Benítez’s struggling Celta Vigo on Friday.The England midfielder is on scoring streak with 11 goals in 12 matches so far this campaign, compared to 14 goals in all of last season for German side Borussia Dortmund.
Bellingham appeared to be bothered by a leg problem when he was substituted after scoring his latest goal in a 2-1 win at Braga in the Champions League on Tuesday. Coach Carlo Ancelotti, however, said immediately after the victory that it was nothing serious.

Madrid top the Spanish league level on points with Girona, with Barcelona one point behind in third place going into the game between the fierce rivals. Atletico Madrid are also fourth at three points back.Atletico host Alaves on Sunday with Antoine Griezmann having scored seven goals in the league, only one fewer Bellingham.

If he is in top form, Bellingham should once again be the focus of an attack that has been prolific despite losing Karim Benzema this summer.
Barcelona also have several injury doubts. Top scorer Robert Lewandowski, who has six goals overall, has missed the last three games with an ankle injury, while midfielders Pedri Rodríguez and Frenkie de Jong, winger Raphinha and Jule Koundé have also been sidelined.

Coach Xavi Hernández would not say if he expects to have these players back on Saturday.
The absences of those regular starters has had an upside: it has allowed Barcelona to give opportunities to the latest young talents to emerge from its La Masia youth academy.
Midfielder Fermín López, 20, was the team’s best player against Shakhtar, scoring a goal and hitting the woodwork twice.

That came four days after 17-year-old Marc Guiu became the second-youngest player this century to score on his league debut when he netted in a 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao.
Not to forget 16-year-old Lamine Yamal, who is adding up records after becoming the youngest player to score for both Barcelona and Spain in recent weeks.
Ferran Torres and newcomer João Félix, both 23 years old, have also made the most of their chances to start in attack with Lewandowski and Raphinha out, combining for eight goals.

All in all, this “clasico” promises to be a game featuring a new generation of players for both sides with Madrid relying on Bellingham (20), Vinícius Júnior (23), and Eduardo Camavinga (20), and Barcelona able to counter with its own crop of youngsters.
It will be the first “clasico” Barcelona plays after the exit of Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, the last pillars of its golden era when it won everything with Lionel Messi and Xavi as a player. For Madrid, Ancelotti will have to decide how to use Luka Modric, the 38-year-old former Ballon d’Or winner, who has lost his set place in the starting 11 since the arrival of Bellingham.

Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez reportedly won’t accompany the team, as he normally does to games against Barcelona, after relations between the powerhouses – who remain aligned behind the frustrated Super League plan – have been strained by off-the-field controversies.
Madrid and Barcelona have been estranged by the scandal of Barcelona’s payment of millions of euros over several years to a former referee working in the Spanish soccer federation. The case is being investigated by a judge.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has denied any wrongdoing by the club and said it is all witch hunt that favors Madrid.
Tension also increased after Barcelona board member Miquel Camps posted a message on X, formerly known as Twitter, this week calling Vinícius a “clown,” apparently for his playing style during the game at Braga.

Camps later erased the message, and Barcelona spokesman Rafa Yuste called it “inappropriate.”
Barcelona’s players will wear special shirts for the game featuring the Rolling Stones’ iconic “hot lips” logo in place of its normal shirt sponsor.
Barcelona, which has a sponsorship deal with audio-streaming service Spotify, has worn special shirts for recent “clasicos” featuring the logos of Spanish pop star Rosalía and Canadian rapper Drake.
The game will be the first “clasico” at Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium, where Barcelona is playing this season while Camp Nou is remodeled.

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