For the uninitiated, the matches between these two sides go beyond the realms of a season and are very fiercely fought. The encounters titled El Clasico, meaning the classic – have never disappointed to woo the audience.
The match would be played in the background of the death of Johan Cruyff –legendary Barcelona player who is adored at Nou Camp. As a player, Cruyff has won the Ballon d’Or thrice and has won many admirers with his ‘total football’. The match will pay tribute to the legend with a warm applause in the 14th minute along with the ‘Gracias Johan’ mosaic before kickoff.
In this backdrop, it is easy to forget the intensity of any other game but not El Clasico, which is definitely more than a game for these two clubs.
The hosts boast of a nine-point lead over Atletico Madrid in the Spanish La Liga and are comfortably placed to lift the title, with just eight games left to play. History has seen larger leads dwindle in the twilight of a season but the form of Barcelona has shown enough reasons to be more than confident.
With an unbeaten run stretching to 39 matches in all competitions, Barcelona are well on course to challenge for another treble. Their record at Nou Camp hasn’t been any less daunting with the last 22 games witnessing 20 wins and no losses.
Luis Enrique may have one eye on the upcoming Champions League Quarter-final fixture against Atletico Madrid but that shouldn’t take any sheen off this fixture. The trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar have demolished every defence in La Liga. Even Madrid received a pounding in their hands – a 4-0 drubbing in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.
A season-ending injury to Jeremy Mathieu and a tired MSN seem to be the only obstacles for Enrique in his quest to master Zidane & co.
The less said about their domestic season, the better! They still hold a mathematical chance and a miraculous hope of winning La Liga but it is as remote as Messi going goal-less in an entire season.
Questions continuously pop-up on the effectiveness of Cristiano Ronaldo in big games like this, as well as his chemistry with Gareth Bale. No doubt that the Los Blancos have the power and pace to hurt Barcelona but the questions on executing the plans, linger on.
The injury problems from the first half of the season seems to have subsided as the squad is more or less up to full fitness. The absence of Karim Benzema and Bale from international duty over the weekend resulted in them working doubly hard for this fixture.
Will a tired attacking force hamper the hosts’ push for another El Clasico win? Can Ronaldo and Bale surprise the Nou Camp faithful? All in all, this is one match you can’t miss any season, let alone this weekend!