With top three La Liga teams already in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, the attention in Spain and perhaps some other places in the world, has shifted to the upcoming El Clasico on Sunday March 23, 2014. Nothing else is more important to the lovers of football than watching the two greatest Spanish sides taking on each other. For those uninitiated to Spanish football, El Clasico is the name for any football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. In olden days, this description was restricted to merely the matches played in Spanish League but with passage of time this restriction has ceased to exist. Thanks largely to world-wide television and internet coverage of football; El Clasico has become a general term for every match that Real and Barca play these days in any tournament. There are many clubs in Spanish League but none of them have the historical rivalry that has existed between Barcelona and Real Madrid. The two richest clubs of Spain are also headquartered in two largest cities of the country; Madrid and Barcelona.
These famous clubs have existed through the most difficult periods of Spanish history. The Catalan population of Barcelona and its neighborhood has always considered itself different from the Spanish Madrid and its national faction. There was a time, when General Franco revolted heavily against those organizations, which wanted the formation of a Second Spanish Republic. One such organization was FC Barcelona. The old chapters of history still occupy the minds of those who walk through the streets of Barcelona and Madrid and sentiments come alive, when the two clubs play each other. There is an instant of intense passions in La Liga history in 1950s, when both Real and Barca wanted to sign Argentinian legend Alfredo Di Stefano. The battle took an ugly turn after the clubs and football’s governing body agreed to share Stefano, because that was the only solution. But after two appearances for Barca, the agreement was dishonored and Stefano became a Real Madrid player for good. The first El Clasico was played 112 years ago on May 13, 1902. Since then Real has recorded 90 victories to 87 by Barca. Real Madrid’s Manuel Sanchis is credited with a maximum of 43 El Clasico appearances. For 18 goals, Lionel Messi shares the top-scorer’s record with Di Stefano.
El Clasico’s popularity can be gauged from the fact that you cannot get to see the match at Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday, because every ticket in the 86,000-capacity stadium has already been sold. Last week, it was possible to see the Champions League round-of-16 match, which Real played with Schalke but even at that time, tickets for El Clasico were unavailable. In streets of Madrid and Barcelona, there is only one topic of conversation these days since the upcoming El Clasico on March 23 is uppermost in people’s mind. Football press and television have got the people hooked to everything about the event.
Languishing at No. 3 in league table, FC Barcelona will visit Madrid with the hope of winning to take them to the second spot. Barca’s optimism is based on its last 10 performances at Santiago Bernabeu. Of these, Barca have won 5, lost 2 and drawn 3 matches. In the 2008/09 League game, Barca won 6-2 under Josep Guardiola and repeated the victory by a 2-0 margin in 2009/10 League. Following year, while the League game ended in a 1-1 draw, the Champions League game was won by Barca 2-0. In 2011/12, Spanish Super Cup match ended in a 2-2 draw but in the League game, Barca recorded a 3-1 victory and also won the 2011/12 Spanish Cup by a 2-1 margin. Real beat Barca 2-1 to win the 2012/13 Spanish Super Cup. The next game of the Spanish Cup ended in a 1-1 draw while the last game ended in favor of Real as they beat Barca 2-1 in the league game.
Lionel Messi is visiting Madrid in top form. The 26-year old Argentinian has recently overtaken Paulino Alcántaraas’s record of highest number of 371 goals. Messi has not failed to score in 8 out of the last 9 games that he has played this season. In Madrid, Messi will be eying to break Hugo Sanchez’s La Liga record of 234 goals since he is just one goal behind Sanchez. For the creative and highly skilled Lionel Messi, nothing is too difficult to achieve. He is a natural left-footer, gifted with the ability of playing in any position. His short stature doesn’t come in the way of his game because he is amazing quick and versatile.
For Real Madrid, the victory will amount to getting rid of their most difficult opponent in the remaining League games. In addition they will climb further up on points table. Real has not lost since their last El Clasico at Camp Nou in October last and a peek at longer history will tell you that despite Barca’s performance in last 10 games, Real have won 51 games in Madrid with Barca accounting for just 17. Real have been playing great football lately, and in Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, they have three of the most attacking players in the game. Past performance aside, it could be anybody’s game at this point of time.