I remember when growing up in the 90s, not very many people from this part of the world knew very much about the Spanish La Liga, particularly the rivalry between the Real Madrid and Barcelona. But not anymore.
Whenever the two would meet, their clash used to pass like any other highly contested football match but since turn of the 21st century, and thanks to the widespread internet and Satellite TVs, more and more people started to realize how this particular contest is more than just an ordinary football match.
This Saturday, the top two teams not only in Spain but probably in world club football meet in what will be the seventh El Clasico of 2011. This is the world’s most watched football match, which despite being played at late hours (in our part of the world), is eagerly awaited for by over a billion views word wide.
In the seven most recent seasons, the winner of this particular clash has proceeded to win La Liga—this matchup produces very few draws and it’s hard to see one on the card this weekend, especially given that both teams are scoring goals as if for fun.
The La Liga and European champions Barcelona have enjoyed the upper hand in most Clasicos in the past three seasons, but this time they face a Real Madrid side that has won 15 consecutive matches in all competitions.
Real Madrid is probably the in-form team in Europe at the moment, but the problem is, it has not defeated Barcelona in a league match since May, 2008.
May be now that Jose Mourinho has made enough study on his team’s main rivals, that trend could change on Saturday—and there is a high likelihood. You can’t bet your house against Madrid enjoying a real sweet revenge at the Bernabeu.
Since Pep Guardiola took over as Barca coach in 2008, his team has faced its sworn enemy 11 times, winning seven, drawing three, and suffering just a single loss, (an extra time of the 2011 Copa del Rey final). Over those 11 matches, Barca has outscored Madrid by 16 goals.
Lionel Messi has enjoyed a great goal-scoring run against Real Madrid, netting six of the past nine goals his team has scored against Madrid—and with a fine record tally of seven goals from his past five trips to the Spanish capital, Guardiola will once more count on the prowess of his Argentine forward.
By the way, Messi is the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or for a third consecutive year after yet another memorable season last season in which he scored 53 goals in all competitions, including 11 in the Champions League.
For the first time in four seasons, Barcelona go into the first Clasico of the season in an unfamiliar second position, and defeat at the Bernabeu would mean falling a massive six points behind league leaders Real Madrid, who have played a game less (14-15) but have won two more games (12-10) than their archrivals.
There is definitely no love lost between Mourinho and Guardiola and the history and tension between the two sets of players makes Saturday’s clash even more fascinating to sit and wait in your nearest bar than your ordinary match, say, Manchester United vs Liverpool in the English Premier League.