Monday evening its El Clasico – undoubtedly the biggest event on the Spanish sporting calendar as footballing giants Barcelona and Real Madrid prepare to clash at the Nou Camp.
A victory in this game doesn’t just mean bragging rights or a paltry three points gained however, as these two sides represent the political divide that currently exists in modern-day Spain. Barcelona – ambassadors for Spanish independence and freedom will be desperate for a victory over Real Madrid who are seen as the seat of establishment in the Spanish royal family.
The Season So Far
Both these sides have had atypically strong starts to the season and only one point separates these two at the top of the La Liga table. Last weekend Barcelona enjoyed an 8-0 romp over Almeria; later resulting in Almeria’s embarrassed manager Juan Manuel Lillo to be sacked by his club.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid enjoyed similar success with a 5-1 win over Athletic Bilbao and still remain unbeaten in La Liga after 12 matches.
In terms of quality there is little if anything to choose between these teams and home advantage will probably prove to be an important factor tomorrow evening. Let’s take a look at the key battles to watch out for that could decide the result of this highly anticipated clash in two days time.
Lionel Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo: Since these two faced each other in the 2009 Champions League final there has been much debate over who owns the right to be named the world’s best player. These two players, despite playing in similar positions have uniquely different playing styles.
Lionel Messi relies on his school-boy enthusiasm and close control to beat defenders with ease and create chances for his team whilst his counter-part Cristiano Ronaldo may not be quite as skilful but he more than makes up for this with his thunderous shot and deadly cross seen time and time again during his tenure in the Premier League.
Considering Lionel Messi is two years the junior of 25 year-old Cristiano Ronaldo, experience will count for a lot in a game of this sort of calibre so you would have to select Ronaldo for this one.
David Villa v Gonzalez Higuain: After enjoying a successful World Cup, David Villa made his high-profile switch to Barcelona from Valencia in the summer and he certainly hasn’t disappointed so far this season netting six in La Liga for the Catalonian giants.
Gonzalez Higuain has gained criticism for under-performing in big games recently but that hasn’t stopped him netting 7 league goals so far this campaign. With David Villa’s current form and his six years of extra experience over 22 year old Higuain, it is Villa who will come out on top in this battle.
Josep Guardiola v Jose Mourinho: Mr Mourinho aka ‘the special one’ has had a very successful management career so far, guiding Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan to silverware. It was this very same man that orchestrated the defensive master class that stopped Barcelona from winning the Champions League last season.
Guardiola meanwhile, still at the relatively youthful age of 39, landed the post as Barcelona manager after guiding Barcelona B to domestic success.
The Catalonian has slotted in perfectly since assuming control and can usually be found sporting an expensive suit, orchestrating his lassiez-faire style of management from the side-lines. Again, experience will count for a lot in this tie and with Jose Mourinho’s vast tactical know-how; it’s the ex-Chelsea boss who has the edge in this battle.
Prediction: Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid
Neither side will want to lose this tie and considering Mourinho’s style of management, he will more than likely head to the Nou Camp with a defensive-minded approach. This one has draw written all over it but it still could be a great spectacle to watch regardless of the final score-line.
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