New faces but same old ‘El Clasico’

Whenever it’s time for the ‘El Clasico’, the world stops to take notice, and Saturday evening, kickoff 6pm Rwandan time, won’t be any different simply because Barcelona vs Real Madrid is no ordinary game of football.
Hamza Nkuutu
Hamza Nkuutu

Whenever it’s time for the ‘El Clasico’, the world stops to take notice, and Saturday evening, kickoff 6pm Rwandan time, won’t be any different simply because Barcelona vs Real Madrid is no ordinary game of football.

It’s politics. It’s money. It’s pride. It’s the bragging rights. It’s everything that you can’t simply get from any other fixture across the major leagues in Europe.

One would call my point of  view an exaggeration of some sort or simply too sentimental but actually it’s the truth, and if you think otherwise, just take a simple test on the people around you after you’ve finished reading, if they will watch the game, you’d be surprised by the response.

Over the years, the match between Barcelona and Real Madrid means a match between the world’s biggest stars and the two richest clubs in the world.

However, there is something fresh to their first meeting of this season at the Nou Camp, home of the Spanish reigning champions, Barcelona, and it’s that freshness brought by the addition of new faces on either side.

In the four most recent seasons, Lionel Messi and his biggest rival Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated this fixture and I don’t envisage the state of affairs to change any time soon.

The addition of Brazilian youngster Neymar by Barca and Welshman Gareth Bale by the team from the Spanish capital, promises to make today’s clash even more appetising for the fans and neutrals alike.

Messi has scored 17 goals against Real Madrid and should the Argentina captain find the net at the Nou Camp on Saturday he would surpass Madrid legend Alfredo di Stefano as the all-time leading scorer in meetings between the two sworn enemies.

Since arriving in Spain at the start of the season, Neymar and Bale have so far shown what they’re capable of, but it’s the former, who had the more telling impact, while the latter has been hindered by injuries.

Already, Neymar has helped lift off some pressure on Messi with three goals and six assists in nine starts for Barca, and by contrast Bale’s start to life as the world’s most expensive player has been hampered by a series of muscle injuries which have restricted him to just five appearances and one goal.

But that is not all, with two new coaches, Barca’s Gerardo Martino and Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti, waiting for the first taste of the ‘Clasico’, it will be  interesting to see who outwits the other in the battle of tactics by the two experienced men.

The match will be the biggest test for both coaches as they face up to their first flavour of the unique pressures ‘El Clasico’ comes with.

Having managed in Italy, England and France, Ancelotti boosts of the greater experience of playing in high intensity matches but it is Martino, who has made the better start as Barca lead Real by three points at the top of La Liga.

The style and approach of these two managers are different from those of the departed Guardiola and Mourinho, and it’s fair to say that their departure has taken a bit of dust away from the touchline, but the new men in charge posses more than what it takes to make ‘El Clasico’ even more exciting.

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