Real Madrid and Barcelona’s matches in La Liga this season have almost had the feeling of high-level training sessions. A few surprises sprinkled throughout, but the inevitability of the best team in the world and the most expensive team in the world deciding the championship arrives on Saturday night.
Barcelona will come off a heavenly high after Lionel Messi played one of the matches of his life, as his four goals sent Arsenal out of the Champions League and pushed Barcelona into the semifinals against Inter Milan. As for Real Madrid, April 10 has been circled, underlined, and highlighted ever since Lyon knocked them out of the first knockout stage of the Champions League for the sixth consecutive year. Real’s only chance for a trophy this season is in La Liga, and for all the votes of confidence that Real president Florentino Pérez has given to his manager Manuel Pellegrini, a trophyless season could lead to Pellegrini’s pink slip in the summer.
With the La Liga title becoming match play many weeks ago between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, the 160th edition of El Clásico on Saturday night has more repercussions than what the managers and players involved let on in various interviews and media sessions.
Here are the technical details:
– If two teams end up equal on points at the end of the season, the first tiebreaker is the head-to-head goal difference between the two teams. For now, Barcelona has the edge over Real Madrid with their 1-0 over Los Blancos at the Camp Nou in November. If the goal difference between the two teams is equal, the second tiebreaker is goal difference over the entire season, and, if necessary, the third tiebreaker is goals scored throughout the whole La Liga campaign.
– If Barça defeats Madrid, they will benefit from a de facto four-point lead because besides being three points above Real Madrid, they will have the head-to-head tiebreaker, and it would not be enough for Real to have the same number of points as Barcelona if Real Madrid wants to hoist the trophy at the end of the season.
– If Real Madrid beats Barcelona by one goal, Real will have the three-point lead over Barcelona, but if they are equal on points when the season ends, the second and/or third tiebreakers come into play.
– If Real Madrid dismisses Barça by more than one goal, Real Madrid will have the de facto four point lead.
– If the match ends in the draw, they will be level on points, but Barcelona would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Whatever the result of this match, both Real and Barça will have seven more matches remaining, and they would have some margin of error to rectify the deficit. It would be presumptuous to believe that they would cruise in their upcoming matches, although it would be tempting to take that bet considering how the season has played out up to this point. All eyes will be on the Santiago Bernabéu, and when the bright lights beam on one of the world’s biggest football stages, the possibility of stamping a place in history will lift the players’ levels beyond what they know.
For all the print devoted to El Clásico, there are other important games in La Liga this weekend. The appetizer to Real Madrid – Barcelona at 2:00 PM is the Tenerife – Real Valladolid clash in the Canary Islands. Hearts will be in the throats of these two teams’ supporters, as the loser of the match can all but guarantee themselves a place in the Segunda División next season. Valladolid made a second change in management this season, as Javier Clemente steps in for Onésimo Sánchez in the slim hope that the former Spanish national team manager can inspire La Pucela into their best form of the season to avoid the drop.
In the race for the final Champions League spot, Mallorca hosts Valencia in the late Sunday kickoff, and of Mallorca’s two losses at home this season, both of them came against teams in the top four, Barcelona and Sevilla. Valencia sits comfortably in third, and after they came inches underneath the crossbar away from reaching the semifinals of the Europa League against Atlético Madrid, Los Che would want nothing more to cauterize their wounds than to prevail over a Mallorca side that stole a draw in the Mestalla in November.
The times listed are Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) and include the pregame pleasantries, although sometimes the matches on the DirecTV La Liga specific channels may not go to match coverage until right before kickoff.
Note: ESPN 360 has rebranded itself as ESPN3.
Apr. 10 – El Clásico
Sportscenter from the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu – 2:30 PM on ESPN Deportes
Fuera de Juego – This pregame show will start at 3:00 PM on ESPN Deportes and will lead into the match.
Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona – 3:55 PM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Gol TV Coverage
Historical Moments in El Clásico – 2:00 on Gol TV
Gol TV Pregame Show – 3:00 on Gol TV and will lead into the match
Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona – 3:55 PM on Gol TV
Gol TV Postgame Show – 6:00 PM on Gol TV
The Other La Liga Matches This Weekend
Málaga vs. Sevilla – 11:55 AM on Gol TV
Villarreal vs. Sporting Gijón – 1:45 PM on DirecTV channel 456
Xerez vs. Getafe – 1:45 PM on DirecTV channel 457
Athletic Bilbao vs. Almería – 10:45 AM on DirecTV channel 456
Osasuna vs. Real Zaragoza – 10:45 AM on DirecTV channel 457
Deportivo La Coruña vs. Racing Santander – 10:55 AM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Espanyol vs. Atlético Madrid – 12:55 PM on Gol TV
Mallorca vs. Valencia – 2:55 PM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Unfortunately, the relegation six-pointer between Tenerife and Real Valladolid at the Estadio Heliodoro Rodríguez López will not be shown on US TV.