For a variety of reasons, El Clasico games between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid have always remained the biggest and most awaited fixtures on the world football calendar. This rivalry has a 114-year old history, wrought with political overtones. Barcelona and Madrid are Spain’s two biggest cities divided on political lines from ages. While Real Madrid is regarded as representing Spanish nationalism, FC Barcelona is an embodiment of Catalan ideology. These two clubs also are among the world’s richest and most successful with a huge global fan base. You can find people in the remotest parts of the world wearing the replicas of either Lionel Messi’s no.10 FCB or Cristiano Ronaldo’s no.7 Real Madrid Tee-shirts. In today’s age of social media, Barcelona and Real Madrid are also the most followed sports teams on Twitter and Facebook. Between them, Barcelona and Real Madrid have the best footballers in the world. In the last 8 years, one out of Ronaldo and Messi has kept the stranglehold on the award for FIFA footballer of the year. No wonder, the clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid is looked with tremendous anticipation around the world. As the two big teams prepare for their next meeting, the talk in sporting circles is focused around their chances at Camp Nou on December 3.
The streets of Barcelona are swarming with tourists and most of them could be FCB fans. Many of them could also visit the stadium for the grand El Clasico contest on Saturday night. The last time the two teams met was on April 2, 2016 in their last La Liga game of the previous season at Camp Nou. Real Madrid had defeated Barcelona 2-1 after a goalless halftime. Therefore on Saturday, Barcelona will look for their revenge in this season’s first La Liga game between the two big teams. Real Madrid, on the other hand, will look for consolidation. However, it is not as simple as that so far as El Clasico games are concerned.
Thus far, it has been a poor La Liga season for Barcelona, who were last season’s champions. In last Sunday’s league game, Barcelona stuttered against Real Sociedad and were lucky to manage a 1-1 draw. At the moment, they are 6 points adrift of table-toppers Real Madrid, who have maintained a great streak so far. In 13 games played this season Zinedine Zidane’s side has retained an unbeaten streak. They have notched up 10 wins and 3 draws. In their last La Liga game, Madrid scored a 2-1 home win against Sporting Gijon. Cristiano Ronaldo accounted for both Madrid goals to take his season’s tally to 10 goals. Thus, the team from the Spanish capital looks better on paper and they could carry the winning momentum for Saturday’s prestigious clash with their arch-rivals. Their only issue is the absence of Gareth Bale. The Welshman twisted his right ankle during last week’s match with Sporting Lisbon. It was later revealed on X-rays examination that Bale had a dislocated perineal tendon and he would require some time before attaining full match fitness. Bale’s absence will be a significant blow for Real Madrid.
FC Barcelona had no such issues as the trinity of Messi Neymar and Suarez is raring to go. In addition, captain Andres Iniesta could stage a comeback after a long lay-off following a knee ligament damage in Barcelona’s game against Valencia in October. Iniesta has been training with the team but Luis Enrique will take the final decision about including him only on match day. Good news for Barcelona is the availability of Turkish International Arda Turan, who missed the game against Real Sociedad due to fever.
Whatever may be said about form, team combination or past records, El Clasico is a class apart. It is not like a normal football game. Fan fever runs high and preparations begin days in advance. These contests have usually drawn a global television audience of more than 400 million. Besides, several million people get hooked on social media sites to follow the action. El Clasico also attracts intense media coverage and reporters from around the world descend on the stadium. For Saturday’s action, tickets have already been sold out and not an inch of space is expected to remain unfilled in Camp Nou, which boasts of the highest capacity football stadium in Spain. More than 99,000 people can watch the action.