El Clasico showdowns will define season for Real Madrid and Barcelona
El Clasico is arguably the biggest game in club football. The rivalry between the two teams is bigger than football; both are comfortably the most successful, wealthy and influential clubs sides in Spain and represent ideas of Spanish and Catalan national identity.
As this season draws to its conclusion, Real Madrid and Barcelona will meet each other in four El Clasico encounters across three competitions that will define the seasons of both clubs.
The first of these meeting comes on Saturday in La Liga and is probably the least significant. Barcelona is currently eight points clear in the league and, for a side of this quality, capitulation with only seven games to play is highly unlikely. That said, if Madrid are hoping to keep alive their slim chances of snatching the title from the Catalans, victory on Saturday is essential.
However recent results have not favoured the Galácticos. In November, Barcelona won 5 - 0 in the Camp Nou and Barcelona have won all the competitive games between the two teams since Madrid won 4-1 in May 2008.
Following the meeting on Saturday, the two teams meet again on Wednesday in the final of the Copa del Rey; the first time in 21 years these giants have met in the final. Barcelona will be strengthened with the predicted return of their captain Carlos Puyol. Cristiano Ronaldo spoke in Marca about the excitement surrounding the final: “In the Copa del Rey final will be the best two teams in the country. Although I must say this is not going to be about revenge.”
The final two meetings between Madrid and Barcelona come in the semi-final of the Champions League after the Galácticos overcame Tottenham last night. This has set up a highly anticipated tie, with the two greatest Spanish sides competing for a place in this year’s Champions League final. The games (taking place on 27 April and 3 May) will be the first meetings between the two sides since their clash in the 2001/02 semi-final. It presents a chance for Jose Mourinho to emulate his achievements with Internazionale, where he masterminded a semi-final triumph over the Catalan side and went on to win the competition.
Talking about the upcoming matches with Madrid, Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola said: "[It's] the chance to compete with the most powerful team...We shall accept the challenge and go for it." He added: "It doesn't matter what condition we are in. What matters is mentality and desire...This is a gift that any sports person would be delighted to accept. In this situation, all we can do is thank the players and treat what's happening as a gift."
The upcoming games between two of club football’s biggest teams are a salivating prospect for any fan. Beyond this, the games will define the season for two sides that still have a chance to win the treble. On recent form Barcelona have the edge, but Real Madrid will be desperate to prove that they are no longer an inferior side.