El Clasico. Two simple words that have come to symbolize one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. El Clasico – for those who don’t know – is the name given to the contests between Spanish giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona. It’s a rivalry fuelled by Spanish heritage and conflict.
Madrid stands as a representative of the Spanish Royals, whilst Barcelona are seen by many – especially their local fans – as a Catalan club, not Spanish.
It’s a rivalry that has had a monopoly over the Spanish La Liga Titles, won countless European Trophy’s and even a pig’s head. It is a truly special occasion in world sport.
Yet we are on the brink of something unprecedented at the moment.
Over the next 18 days, these two giants will wage war against one another over four epic battles.
The first of those encounters will take place early Sunday morning – at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid – as they meet for the second time this year in La Liga.
Barcelona currently sits atop the Spanish La Liga table, with an eight-point lead over Real Madrid. A win by Barcelona would all but wrap up this years title, making it three straight La Liga triumphs, whereas Real Madrid desperately need a win to try and keep their dreams alive.
Real Madrid goes into this encounter knowing that nothing short of a win is an acceptable. If they are to have any chance of winning the Spanish La Liga title, they have to get three points from this one.
And just in case they needed any more motivation, they will be looking to retaliate and strike back against their Catalan nemesis, after they were humiliated 5-0 at the Nou Camp, earlier this season.
Real Madrid will enter the contest close to full-strength, and have been hugely boosted in the past few weeks, with superstars Kaka, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain all returning from injury.
Injuries or the absence of key players cannot be blamed if Real Madrid fails to perform.
Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo – for someone with such undeniable talent – seems to hate the notion of being ‘second-best’ after Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. El Clasico is a chance for Ronaldo to go head-to-head with Messi, to try and gain the upper hand, in their battle for individual supremacy.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been in sublime form this season, scoring 40 goals in his 45 appearances.
Real Madrid will definitely need Ronaldo to carry his great form into El Clasico, if they are to stand any chance of getting the better of Barcelona.
This current Barcelona side is widely viewed – outside of Madrid – to be one of the greatest Football teams in history. They’re conquered all fronts: La Liga Titles, Spanish Kings Cups, UEFA Super Cups, Club World Championship and Champions League glory all achieved in the last two years.
They rightly enter almost every contest as favourites as defeating or even containing Barcelona has been a rarity in any competition.
However, chinks in the armour of this mighty side have emerged, mainly in the shape of injury. Barcelona’s defensive unit has taken a big hit, with captain Carlos Puyol and French Wingback Eric Abidal both set to miss El Clasico.
After humbling Madrid earlier in the season, Barcelona will be looking to secure a sweep over their rivals in La Liga, whilst also locking up another title.
There are no more superlatives that can be used to describe Argentinian megastar, Lionel Messi.
The two-time world player of the year found the back of the net at the Santiago Bernabeu last season, and was an instrumental piece of Barcelona’s 5-0 win this year.
Netherland and Barcelona legend Johan Cruyff recently compared Messi to Diego Maradona, and declared the Lionel Messi was one of the “great players.” It’s a sentiment that is incredibly hard to dispute, especially when considering that Messi has amassed an unbelievable 45 goals in his 44 appearances for the club this season.
Lionel Messi will definitely be looking to match his performance from the Bernabeu last season, and in the process be key to driving Barcelona to another El Clasico triumph, and to within touching distance of yet another La Liga title.
El Clasicos are often tough matches to predict.
They’re often an unpredictable affair – especially in the last few encounters – with score lines often being something a little out of the ordinary.
Discounting their meeting earlier this season, Real Madrid Manager Jose Mourinho has had the edge over his Barcelona counterpart, Pep Guardiola, and the performance of the coaches could be vital in determining how this game turns out.
Whilst Barcelona’s greatness cannot be questioned, this Madrid side is a different one from El Clasicos gone by, even those as recent as this year.
Real Madrid simply have too much to lose in this game, I think that urgency, plus the edge from playing in front of the die-hard Madristas, will see them gain supremacy in another hard fought, physical encounter.
Real Madrid 3 Barcelona 2