LaLiga: The rising stars of 'El Clasico'

·5-min read
Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior.
Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior. (PHOTO: Reuters/Sergio Perez)

"El Clasico" is the LaLiga Santander match with the greatest impact worldwide. It is also a unique opportunity for the promising youngsters of Real Madrid and Barcelona to demonstrate their desire to triumph in the world of football.

For many young Real Madrid and Barcelona players, playing in El Clasico is a major milestone. Here’s a look at the young footballing stars who will try to make their mark in a very special game – one that lets them showcase their talents in front of a global audience. 

Young forwards

Starting with the front line, both teams have some remarkable promises. Real Madrid has a strong Brazilian contingent headed by Vinicius Junior, at just 20 years of age, who is expected to start for Los Blancos. 

The striker has played 16 games this season and managed three goals and as many assists. His pace and dribbling are a pleasure to behold and his ability to go past defenders could be a real boon for Los Merengues in El Clasico. 

His fellow countryman, Rodrygo Silva, also aged 20, has played in 15 league matches this term, five of them starts, in which he has provided five assists for his teammates. 

For Barca, French forward Ousmane Dembele stands out. He is carving out an increasingly important role in Ronald Koeman's side at the age of just 23. He comes into the game having netted the winner in the last minute against Real Valladolid to give his side a massive boost in their bid for the LaLiga Santander title. This season, Dembele has made 23 appearances with a return of five goals and two assists. 

Francisco Trincao, Riqui Puig and Konrad de la Fuente are also making waves in Barcelona's front line. So far this season, Trincao has played 23 games and scored three goals, two of them in the same match. 

Meanwhile, the 19-year-old de la Fuente has yet to make his first team debut. Puig, on the other hand, has been employed mostly as an attacking midfielder. The budding 21-year-old Spaniard has made 11 appearances in the current campaign and has one goal to his name. 

Young midfielders

Continuing with Koeman's outfit, two young midfielders mainstays of the Dutch manager's team sheets: Pedro "Pedri" Gonzalez and Frenkie de Jong. 

Pedri, just 18 years old, has featured in all 29 games so far this season, starting in 23 of them. The Spaniard also holds the record for being the youngest footballer to score and provide an assist in the same LaLiga Santander match, at 18 years and 42 days old. 

De Jong, 23, is the player who Barcelona funnel the majority of their play through. He has featured in all 29 matches so far this season, 27 of them as part of the starting XI. 

Also worth mentioning is 18-year-old academy graduate Ilaix Moriba who, despite his tender age, has played six times this season and scored one goal.

Meanwhile, Fede Valverde is making giant strides at Real Madrid at the age of just 22. The Uruguayan already found the back of the net in the previous El Clasico, and totals three goals and one assist for Los Blancos. 

Another name that stands out is that of the academy graduate Sergio Arribas, who has played six matches in a Madrid shirt this season at the age of just 19.

Barcelona's Sergino Dest.
Barcelona's Sergino Dest. (PHOTO: Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Young defenders

All indications are that Real's Eder Militao, 23, will be given the nod to start against Barcelona. The Brazilian centre-back has played five games this season in LaLiga Santander, four of them as a member of the starting XI. 

The Madrid defence could also feature the young academy graduate Victor Chust, who made his LaLiga Santander debut on 9 February against Getafe. 

For Barcelona, Koeman has regularly fielded a host of youngsters. The right-back who has made the most starts this campaign is Sergino Dest. At just 19 years of age, he has already made 23 appearances, 18 of them as a starter, and he is the first American player to score a brace in LaLiga Santander. 

Meanwhile, the Araujo-Mingueza centre-back pairing are looking to become the first-choice duo for Barca. Oscar Mingueza and Ronald Araujo, aged 21 and 22 respectively, have been doing an impressive job and are living up to the tough task of being Barcelona's central defensive pairing. 

This season, Uruguayan Araujo has played 16 games, 11 from the off, in which he has scored one goal and provided one assist. His partner in battle, Mingueza, has played 20 games, 17 from the start, and has also scored once and assisted once. 

Young goalkeepers

Real Madrid have no worries about filling the number one spot on the team sheet in the future. Their ranks include Andriy Lunin, who at the age of 22 has proven to be one of the break-out shot-stoppers in the competition in recent seasons. The Ukrainian has yet to feature in a match this season, with Thibaut Courtois having played every minute, but there is no doubt that he provides Zinedine Zidane with the perfect backup. 

However, there is another up-and-coming goalkeeper at Real Madrid with an eye on the first-team spot in the future. Diego Altube is just 21 years old, and the Real Madrid Castilla keeper is a regular in the Frenchman’s training sessions and matchday squads. 

Barcelona have the 22-year-old goalkeeper Inaki Pena. The Alicante-born player has also yet to make his LaLiga Santander debut in a Barca shirt, but he understands exactly what it means to defend the club crest, having played hundreds of minutes with the club's junior teams. 

He regularly gets the call from Koeman both for Barça's matchday squads and their training sessions and is patiently awaiting the opportunity to stand in for Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Neto between the sticks. 

Watch El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona this Saturday on your local broadcasters.