- Copy link
The term ‘Clásico’ originates from Latin America – used to refer to a direct meeting between the two biggest clubs in a league championship. The expression has been adopted in Europe to describe the game between the two biggest clubs in La Liga. Who also happen to be two of the biggest clubs in the world. Real Madrid versus FC Barcelona is no ordinary match. This is a game that brings an entire country to a standstill – and enthrals millions of viewers all around the globe. From 6.15pm CET on Saturday, the whole world’s eyes will be focused on the Santiago Bernabéu and a game that never fails to produce drama, joy, despair… and some of the finest football you will ever see.
The questions being asked by everyone are about Leo Messi. The best player in the world has been out for almost two months with a knee injury, but he has been training this week and declared fit to play. But if he does, does that mean all 90 minutes, or will he start on the bench? It would seem not even his manager is certain about that yet, and all will be revealed about an hour before kick-off. In whatever case, it’s good news for Barça, and there’s the added bonus that Ivan Rakitic has recovered from a torn calf and will also be able to make the trip.
In Madrid, everything seems to be falling into place just in time for the Clásico, and on Friday they were able to train with a full-strength squad. Karim Benzema is fit after being out for a month with a hamstring problem, goalkeeper Keylor Navas is back after a two-game absence, Gareth Bale insists that his calf problems are over and although Sergio Ramos damaged his shoulder with a bicycle kick against Sevilla, it looks like he’s going to play through the pain barrier and wait until after the Clásico to undergo surgery.
In characteristic fashion, Barça boss Luis Enrique refused to get drawn into all the hoo-ha that typically surrounds this fixture. “People tend to exaggerate things in football” he insisted. “I don’t think this game is going to decide the championship by any means … I’m approaching it like I would any game, but there are always certain matters to think about when you play a team as big as this.”
Over in Madrid, Rafael Benítez was in a confident mood on Friday. "We're playing at home, in front of our fans, and that's why I think we're favourites” he claimed. “We try to win by attacking and outscoring the opposition, whoever it is we're up against. We don't worry too much about the opponents; we just aim to take care of our side of things."
After losing to Sevilla on 3 October, Barça dropped to fourth in La Liga. But they have followed that up with a run of four consecutive wins, scoring 13 and conceding just three in the process. And that’s been enough to move them back to the top of the table.
The day after Barça were beaten at the Sánchez Pizjuán, Real Madrid drew 1-1 in the derby at Atlético. When surprise early leaders Villarreal started falling off the pace, Madrid moved to top spot, albeit only on goal difference ahead of Barça. But after a run of three wins, they too suffered defeat at Sevilla, and as a result, it’s the Catalans who’ll be going into El Clásico with a three-point edge on their biggest rivals.
History? It would be hard to pick two sides with as much history between them as Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. As far as sporting rivalries go, this is about as massive as it gets. And in Madrid there is good reason to be worried. Since the turn of the century and in all tournaments, Barça have won as many Clásicos at the Bernabéu as Madrid (eight each), including the two victories that Andrés Iniesta picked out this week as the most memorable, the amazing 6-2 rout of May 2009 and the 3-0 win exactly ten years and one day ago, when Ronaldinho was so outstanding that the home fans could do nothing other than stand and applaud.
Last season, however, and despite Neymar putting Barça into an early lead after just four minutes, Ronaldo, Pepe and Benzema eventually scored to leave the Bernabéu celebrating a 3-1 win. At 6.15pm CET on Saturday, it all starts again!
No matter where you are in the world, we have you covered. And remember, you can also listen to live commentary in English on Radio Barça. The radio link will appear on www.fcbarcelona.com just before kick-off. Twitter users can follow @FCBarcelona for a live feed of all the action.
- Copy link