All eyes will be on the clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid with the magnificent Camp Nou playing host to this top of the table meeting of the eternal rivals. Without disregarding or belittling the history behind this intense rivalry which extends beyond the football pitch to engulf social and political agendas, millions of people in Spain and around the world will be concentrating on what will happen on the field with the great talents such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi taking on Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Mesut Özil.
Barcelona have won the last four matches, including a 2-0 win in Madrid last season which practically sealed the title for the Catalans. The Ronaldo versus Messi show never developed into an enticing scenario as the first match in Barcelona was decided by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, currently with Milan, while the win in Madrid saw Messi and Perdo score the two goals. In 160 La Liga matches, Los Galacticos have the edge with 68 wins compared to 62 by Barca while the two sides were forced to settle for a draw in 30 other games.
This first clash between the two giants of Spanish football will be important on more than one front. Barca are current La Liga champions while Real have hired Jose Mourinho, a season after achieving a historic treble with Inter, in order to regain the league title and challenge for the Champions League. The winner from this match will be on top of the league standings and will earn a massive morale boost as the players from the victorious team will probably go on to win matches until the two sides meet again in the return fixture.
Los Blancos are currently on top a single point above Barca and have yet to lose this season. Real have won four of their away games while drawing the other two. Interesting enough, Barca have lost once this season and it was at home while they also drew another game at the Camp Nou. Barcelona are perfect away from home but this could be explained by the fact all teams visiting the Camp Nou tend to opt for an ultra defensive strategy, have all their players chase the ball and attempt to snatch a famous draw.
La Liga has become a two-horse race between the two giants as the competing teams have had to settle for the positions starting with third place and going all the way down to the relegation zone. The closest team to Barca, who are in second place, is already seven points behind while last season Real, who finished in second, were a stunning 25 points ahead of the third team in La Liga. This increases importance of this match since the winner will likely gain momentum and continue to have the edge in the standings until the two teams meet again.
Both teams have scored 33 goals but Real’s defensive line has conceded less and this could be further evidence of the influence coach Jose Mourinho has on the Madrid club. The Portuguese coach has won titles with Inter and Chelsea by restricting opponents, relying on a solid defensive line and having a strong group ethic. Barca’s top scorer is Messi with his 13 goals but Ronaldo has managed to find the back of the net 14 times in La Liga. Both stars have astonishing numbers. It remains to be seen how the two key players will perform on this big stage.
Could Messi or Ronaldo tip the match’s balance to lead their club to victory or will someone else decide the match? It would not be a surprise to see both clubs end the match with a high scoring tie since the two teams have a number of players who can score goals such as David Villa and Karim Benzema among others. Regardless of who wins the game, seeing Messi and Ronaldo clash will be quite enticing despite the fact the two will not really face each other due to their position with their respective team (Check http://www.laligatalk.com/messi-versus-ronaldo/1881 for a previous analysis on Messi & C. Ronaldo).