Rafa Benítez faces FC Barcelona this Saturday as a coach for the first time since 2007 when he was in charge of a Liverpool side who knocked the blaugranes out of the Champions League in the last 16. It will be his first Clásico as Real Madrid coach and it is destined to be a key one with Barça in with a chance of stretching their lead over their greatest rivals to six points in the league.
The last clash between Benítez and Barça came in the season 2006/07 in Europe’s premier club competition. In the last 16 his Liverpool side overcame the blaugranes 2-1 in the first leg at Camp Nou. The side then coached by Frank Rijkaard won 1-0 at Anfield in the second leg thanks to a goal from Eidur Gudjohnsen, but it was not enough and Benitez’s team progressed on away goals. Earlier in the same decade, Benítez was in charge of a powerful Valencia side and in three seasons between 2001 and 2004 he came up against FC Barcelona on six occasions in the league. Of those contests, Barça came out on top on two occasions, drawing once and losing three.
The first time Real Madrid’s current coach came up against Barça from the sidelines was way back in 1995/96. Then just 35 years old, Benítez was in charge of a Valladolid team who lost 2-0 at home and 1-0 away at Camp Nou that season. Three years later Benítez had moved on to Extremadura, yet his results against Barça were no different to his days with Valladolid. The blaugranes won1-0 at home and 2-1 away, the latter game seeing current Barça boss Luis Enrique getting on the scoresheet.