On the verge of playing his first ever Barça-Real Madrid at Camp Nou, Luis Suárez is nothing but excited: "I never imagined playing in the Clásico. I used to watch the games and look at photos and I used to say ‘how incredible to play in it.’ Now it’s time to enjoy it and make the most of the moment." "I was at the 5-0 game and the 1-1 draw in the Champions League (2010/11). As a fan you enjoy it a lot," the Uruguayan explained. Curiously enough, the striker’s Barça debut came in the Bernabéu in the first half of the season. This is how he remembers it: "I was focused on my nervousness about coming back to play. Aside from it being a Clásico, it was important for me. I didn’t enjoy it as you should enjoy a Clásico, let’s hope I can do it this time." As for the game on Sunday: "It will be very important and a plus for us and a joy for the fans."
What is the last thing you remember about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo? For Messi, it is most likely him tearing Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City apart, making them look like a League One team lost in Europe, nutmegging James Milner to leave him with grass stains on his backside. For Ronaldo, it may be him throwing his arm in the air in disdain, sulking back to the halfway line, protesting even though team-mate Gareth Bale had just put Real Madrid 1-0 up against Levante.
The pressure is on Madrid to keep the title race alive in Spain by avoiding defeat against Luis Enrique’s men and the pressure is on Ancelotti to ensure he has plenty of positives to highlight come the end of the campaign when he discusses his future with president Florentino Perez.
Once again this year Sunday’s game between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid has already generated unprecedented levels of media interest. In total there are 805 professionals accredited for the clash at Camp Nou with journalists, photographers, commentators, cameramen and back up staff from more than 164 media outlets from 35 different countries. 79 media outlets come from the written press, 26 are press agencies, 18 radio stations and 41 television stations.
The former Barcelona forward and current captain of new MLS franchise New York City is backing his old club for victory but has also pointed out that anything can happen in games of this magnitude. "I see Barcelona well above Real Madrid at this moment. Their last few games have been spectacular, while Real Madrid’s have cost them going forward," Villa commented on Onda Cero radio.
For four years Ronaldo had finished second to Messi but he had not given up. Instead, he took the trophy off Messi two years in a row. A year before, his tears had shown what it meant to him. Now he said: "This is my third Ballon d’Or but I am not going to stop here. I want to catch Messi." Two months later, it is tempting to look back on that moment and imagine Messi silently sitting there and thinking: "Oh, will you now?" Maybe Ronaldo was right; maybe he does motivate Messi too.
In his three seasons as a senior Real Madrid squad member, Granero - who also spent a year at QPR - featured in four Clasico matches, mainly in the Copa Del Rey. And he believes Los Blancos know how to handle the hype. "I am following Madrid's current situation but obviously from a distance now," he said. "They have to be relaxed. It's a club where there is always great pressure if there are a series of poor results. Despite that, I believe the players, the club and the coach are used to it. And I'm sure they are capable of turning this around. Everybody does their job and journalists do theirs."
Sky Sports ambassador David Beckham has backed Gareth Bale to return to his best at Real Madrid - claiming the Welshman had the "perfect" first season at the club last term. "Last season was a perfect season for him; this season, he’s still doing well but there’s always going to be moments when doesn’t do as well in games – that’s normal as he is one of the best players. He’s scored great goals already this season and he’s a great character. For me, he’s one of the best."
For the last month some slickly edited highlights have been floating around on YouTube of an English academy team playing Barcelona’s juniors at La Masia. The Barça kids start well, romping about like handsome schoolboys, hitting the post a few times and generally caressing the ball as though it’s the last golden ostrich egg left on earth. Gradually, though, the visitors start to get a grip. After half an hour they score from the penalty spot. And by the end of a feisty second half the team in white have, to their own obvious delight, beaten Barcelona 3-0 on their own ground.
Resurgent Valencia turned up the heat on Atletico Madrid in the battle for third place in La Liga when Andre Gomes scored and then set up Paco Alcacer for their second goal in a 4-0 stroll at struggling Elche on Friday. Valencia leapfrogged Atletico into third last weekend with their fifth victory in six games and their latest success means the champions need to beat Getafe at the Calderon on Saturday to trim the gap back to a point with 10 games left.