Messi on Hazard replacing Ronaldo, being benched & why Barcelona love playing at the Bernabeu

Goal.com

Heading into a crucial meeting with Real Madrid on Wednesday, Lionel Messi has opened up on a number of issues, including why Barcelona seem to perform better against their rivals when they play at Santiago Bernabeu.

La Liga's top two sides will face off at Camp Nou in midweek, with only goal difference separating them in the table after 16 fixtures of the 2019-20 campaign.

Barca were held to a 2-2 draw at the Anoeta by Real Sociedad in their last outing , but Real Madrid missed the chance to return to the summit when they took in a trip to the Mestalla.

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A stoppage-time Karim Benzema goal ensured that Madrid snatched a 1-1 draw against Valencia to stay level on 35 points with Barca, who are now set to host the first Clasico of the season.

The Spanish champions won the same fixture 5-1 last term, which marked their only home win over the Blancos in their last four attempts.

In stark contrast, Barca currently boast a record of four successive wins at the Bernabeu, with Messi acknowledging that "many more spaces are generated" away from home.

He told Marca: "When we play at the Bernabeu, many more spaces are generated. They attack us more because they have the obligation as the host team and people push them for that.

"At the Camp Nou, they play another type of match, sitting a little further back, they are closer together and hit on the counter-attack because they have very fast players upfront.

"At the Bernabeu, we play 90 minutes equally. Here the game becomes more locked and is more complicated."

Lionel Messi Barcelona 2019-20
Lionel Messi Barcelona 2019-20

One man who used to have a big impact on Clasico encounters is Cristiano Ronaldo, who spent nine years on Madrid's books before joining Juventus in the summer of 2018.

Summer signing Eden Hazard was billed as the Portuguese forward's successor upon his arrival in La Liga, but he has so far failed to live up to expectations in the famous white shirt.

When asked if the Belgian is capable of filling the void Ronaldo left in Madrid's line-up in the long-term, Messi responded: "Hazard has a lot of quality. He is a different football player who can unbalance [defences], but I think he is different to Cristiano, with different characteristics.

"It is very difficult to replace Cristiano, but Hazard is also a great player."

Messi is among a number of Barcelona's senior stars who are no longer guaranteed to start and finish every single game, with Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Gerard Pique also now required to take a step back for the good of the team from time to time.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner went on to discuss Ernesto Valverde's selection policy, with it his belief that compromise is a necessity in order to keep motivation levels high.

He added: "Actually I think we are all very important. There are times when it's another teammate's turn to play and I think you have to take it in the best possible way, being aware that the most important thing is that everyone in the dressing room feels important because we need everyone motivated to achieve the targets."

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