Let me put it this way, this 98, 000 capacity Stadium will be full tomorrow. The rest stuff, you go figure.
What is el-Clásico?
Five reason to watch el-Clásico
by Guillem Balague
Have you seen Barca lately?
Statistics don’t always tell the whole story, but on this occasion they speak for themselves: unbeaten in the league since the opening day of the season, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona have conceded just nine goals in 14 games, while the free-scoring attack has netted 44 goals already. And they are playing well when it really matters. Their recent run of games was supposed to be a test of their credentials: a trip to Sevilla? No problem, 3-0 and adios; a visit from Valencia, a side who had conceded just three league goals away from home all season? 4-0 and thank you very much. Even Thierry Henry, a player who is supposed to be having a miserable time, is gatecrashing the party and going home with a hat-trick. They are a joy to watch at the moment, and they will be looking for revenge after being made to form a guard of honour at the Bernabeu last season.
Beware the wounded animal
Another cliché, I know, but as Joan Laporta warned me in an interview with him this week: this is still Real Madrid and they are hurting at the moment. The Madrid players may have stopped playing for Schuster, but under a new coach and with their pride at stake, they will be fighting for their lives. The whole world will be watching this one and, whoever takes to the field on the night, there will still be 11 very, very good players wearing white – each one of them capable of hurting the opposition.
Lionel Messi – and the rest
We’ve been saying it for weeks: on current form, Messi is the best player in the world and the stage is set for a big performance from the little Argentinian wizard. He has been absolutely devastating in recent weeks and if there is any lingering doubt as to just how good he is, the true test of a player is how he performs in the really big games. When it has really mattered in recent weeks, Messi has delivered. Of his nine league goals, you will struggle to see two better than his brace in the vital match against Sevilla a fortnight ago. He is unfazed by the occasion – and there is none bigger than FC Barcelona versus Real Madrid. And if watching Messi wasn’t worth the price of admission alone, there are plenty of other fascinating sub-plots to keep us hooked:the passing of Xavi; the pace, power and finishing of Eto’o; the burgeoning talent of Alves, the best right back in the game; the development and progression of Higuain; an opportunity for Casillas to regain his form and silence his doubters; and, of course, Ramos’ La Liga debut.
Two presidents, one box
I’ve chatted with both presidents this week and both men are respectful of each other. It hasn’t always been that way and, more often than not, former presidents of Barcelona and Real have refused even to acknowledge each other, let alone speak. Laporta and Calderon have even been counselling each other over the last couple of seasons as each one of them has gone through their respective highs and lows – yet somehow that makes the relationship all the more intriguing for those of us looking on. On Saturday they’ll be sat side-by-side in the directors’ box – something that many previous presidents have refused to do – and the world gets to look on as they try to mask their emotions while all the time trying to act respectfully to the other. Who has the best poker face on the night?
This is Barca-Real
What else is there left to say? This is Barca-Real after all. As Laporta said in our interview this week, there is no other sporting spectacle like it in the world. More clichés? Why not. This is more than a game. This is the ultimate grudge match. This is history. A clash of the Titans. For everyone in Spain it represents a variety of conflicting symbols: two nations; two great sporting institutions; two worldviews; two philosophies or even just two football teams. Wherever you come from, it means something different, but wherever you are, it matters.
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“You can never have a situation in which both Real Madrid and Barcelona are doing well.”