FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid. The La Liga leaders vs the reigning champions. El Clasico. You can bill this match any way that you see fit; you can focus on any different number of sub-plots, but really when all is said and done, it might be easier for us to sit back, wait and let the football do the talking. For this is the greatest rivalry in our sport; this is the very peak, the absolute pinnacle of our game. Nothing even comes close to replicating a Clasico; you can forget the North London derby, you can forget the Derby della Madonnina; they can't hold a torch to this game. The quality, the passion, the drama, the entertainment, the intrigue; El Clasico has it all. And we are now just a few hours away from kick-off.
The build-up has been immense, the pressure is building -- and not just on FC Barcelona who need a win to keep their title hopes alive. For Real Madrid, this is supposed to be their big day. The day that they knock Barcelona out of the title race and prove their supremacy in Spain. Some Madridistas are confident, perhaps overly-so reminding their peers that they are less than twelve hours away from "thrashing FC Barcelona". One has to admire their panache; they are at home, they are leading the league and they do have the current FIFA Ballon d'Or winner partnered alongside the most expensive player in the history of the game. But this arrogance might come back to haunt them.
Real Madrid enter the match on a phenomenal unbeaten run, having not lost in 31 competitive matches since the two sides last met in October. Barcelona on the other hand have won just one of their last five away matches in La Liga. On paper, Madrid are favourites and rightly so.
However, cast your mind back to 2009; heading into a pivotal El Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid had claimed 52 points out of a possible 54; truly staggering form by anyone's standards and they even took the lead on the night through Gonzalo Higuain. The final score on that night?
Real Madrid 2-6 FC Barcelona.
And again in 2010, Real Madrid travelled to the Camp Nou with a new manager, a coach who had masterminded Internazionale past FC Barcelona in the previous season's UEFA Champions League semi-finals. Los Blancos were unbeaten under his command and were being backed to escape the Camp Nou with at least a share of the spoils. The final score on that night?
FC Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid.
Just as it looks as though Real Madrid are building momentum, FC Barcelona have been there to bring Los Merengues back to reality. Can they do it one more time tonight, or is this really the beginning of a "Real Madrid era"?
Predict the score of tonight's Clasico by commenting with your prediction below. Best of luck!
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