More than a football match. More than a rivalry. This is a civil war re-enacted every year. A battle for supremacy, bragging rights and possibly a league title.
Tonight, 20 of the 55 players nominated for the Fifpro XI will take to the pitch at the Camp Nou to do battle. That is the quality that the El clasico boasts. What to watch out for?
Messi v. Ronaldo
As much as people try to say “it’s more than Messi vs Ronaldo” and “there are 20 other players on the pitch”, you cannot ignore the presence of the player with the most goals in the fixture and the player who is a mere 5 goals behind him.
They will definitely be the main protagonists of this story. Ronaldo will be chasing his 7th consecutive goal (the most by any player) in the Clasico and Messi will be looking to improve on his 21 goal tally.
With a combined 19 league goals already this season, you can be sure both Luis Enrique and Zinedine Zidane would have had sleepless nights drawing up plans to stop 2 of the best players of this era.
Barcelona come into this game on the back of questionable league form. They have failed to get a win at Anoeta (again) and were also held at home against Malaga. They are 6 points adrift of Madrid who recently ravaged city rivals Atletico at the Calderon and followed that up with a hard fought 2-1 win against Sporting Gijon.
Los Blancos will be without Gareth Bale who is sidelined until next year but will be glad to welcome the returning midfield dynamo, Casemiro.
Barcelona will be elated to have Iniesta fit again as they have endured poor form during his absence. They will also have Umtiti back after a short spell out injured.
Even at this stage of the season, a 9 point gap would be a daunting task for Barcelona to overcome and they would do everything in their power to avoid it, but we must remember that Real Madrid are well worth their current 6 point lead and are undefeated in 32 games under manager Zinedine Zidane.
Written by Ayoola Kelechi (@ayoola_kelechi)