The titans of Spanish football will face off next weekend at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in the traditional El Classico which will carry an even greater importance this time because it could decide the league title’s destination. The two clubs are tied on top of la Liga with the same number of points but Los Galacticos are one goal ahead in terms of the goals scored and conceded differential.
Barca have the stronger defensive line while the hosts who are led by record signing Cristiano Ronaldo have the better offensive record. While some might see this clash as a duel between Ronaldo and Barca’s Lionel Messi, this is far from the accurate truth as Los Galacticos have Gonzalo Higuain in their ranks and he is the club’s top scorer with 23 goals to Ronaldo’s 17. In Barca’s case Messi might be the star who is on a level above everyone else but his teammates have a crucial role and their contribution cannot be underestimated. Messi might be the top scorer in la Liga with a stunning ratio of 26 goals in 27 matches and he has provided 9 assists, but midfielder Xavi Hernandez and full-back Daniel Alves have both given 7 assists this season. Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic has contributed 15 league goals including the important winner in the match between the two earlier this season.
Real Madrid have won all 15 of their home games so how will Barca cope with that and can they be the first to at least force a draw in Madrid? One key element for Barca will be how long their defenders can hold Real Madrid’s offensive weapons, particularly Ronaldo, in check. The responsibility will fall on the shoulders of club captain Carles Puyol who will have to lead the back-line by example and keep an eye on not just on goal scorers Ronaldo and Higuain, but also be aware of the danger posed by Kaka, Xabi Alonso, Marcelo and Rafael Van der Vaart who all have at least 5 assists or more.
On the other hand, Los Galacticos will rely on home court advantage having won all their games at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in la Liga as well as the marquee players mentioned above. In addition, the Real Madrid defenders will also play a massive role since they will have to contain not just Messi but Swedish striker Ibrahimovic, midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta among others. This is shaping up into a clash of epic proportions and the supporters of the beautiful game will be hoping for a spectacle filled with goals and punctuated by fair play.
For the fans of either club the focus will be on achieving victory in order to push ahead with the drive for the Spanish title. Barca would like to retain their crown while Real Madrid are hoping to justify all their spending which reached stratospheric proportions. To some it might be just about Ronaldo versus Messi but who will be celebrating at the end of the match could very well depend on the contribution of their teammates.