Treating Barcelona captain Lionel Messi like a normal opponent will only end in El Clasico misery for Real Madrid, Raphael Varane has warned.
France international Varane and his fellow Madrid defenders will have their hands full when they square off against Barca’s expensively assembled front three for the first time on Wednesday.
Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann have already scored four goals between them in December and will hope to help fire the champions three points clear of their LaLiga title rivals at Camp Nou.
Barca captain Messi remains the most obvious danger to the visitors’ 11-game undefeated streak and, though the Ballon d’Or winner has failed to score in his past three Clasico appearances, centre-back Varane insisted every single Madrid player would have to do their bit to curb his influence.
“He is a special player and you can’t defend him like any other player,” Varane said, courtesy of LaLiga.
“He has his characteristics and he demands great focus from you and you have to defend him together with your team-mates.
“It’s a collective effort… we have to leave him as little space as possible.”
Both sides drew their last LaLiga games but have been in good form, with Barca having won their previous seven across all competitions.
Some critics have accused Ernesto Valverde of deviating too far from the club’s ingrained playing principles, but Varane expected to confront a familiar challenge.
“I don’t see much of a difference,” he said. “They always have the same identity and playing style out on the pitch and the same philosophy, and the important players are the same.
“We know that it’s always difficult to play against them but at the same time we know what to expect.”
Varane tipped both teams to deliver a spectacle befitting what he claimed was the highest-quality fixture in world football.
“I believe that in these kinds of games you always want to come into them with confidence,” the 26-year-old said.
“But it’s special, no doubt. When both teams take to the field they leave their doubts aside, it’s a battle. It doesn’t really matter how the last few games have been.
“When you step out onto the field, everything’s different.”