With 10 gameweeks remaining, it might be rash to suggest that the result of one match could determine the destination of Spain’s Primera Division title but, come the end of the season, this weekend’s Clasico in Madrid might in retrospect have had a significant bearing on the final outcome.
Real Madrid go into Sunday’s showdown with Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu four points ahead of their deadliest rivals, knowing that a win would extend that margin to seven, leaving the Catalans playing catch-up for the rest of the campaign. There is even the possibility of Los Blancos contesting a two-horse race, not with Barca, but with their neighbors Atletico Madrid.
Programming note: For viewers in the United States, this Sunday’s el Clasico is being shown exclusively on beIN SPORT, beIN SPORT Espanol and DishWorld. Even if you don’t have a TV subscription to beIN SPORT, you can access those channels via online streaming service DishWorld for $10/month. Read our review of DishWorld. And sign up for DishWorld via their website.
The pre-game coverage starts on beIN SPORT on Sunday at 3pm ET, with the match kicking off at 3:55pm ET.
The season’s first Clasico at Camp Nou last October was a cagey affair that saw Carlo Ancelotti’s side suffer the second of only two defeats so far this season. Alexis Sanchez added to Neymar’s early strike before a stoppage-time goal from Jese Rodriguez left the final score 2-1 to Barcelona. At that stage in the campaign, La Blaugrana were sweeping all their opponents aside, but their form has stuttered since the turn of the year while Madrid have hit their stride at just the right time.
Los Blancos have had the perfect preparation for the Clasico, recording wins over Malaga in La Liga and Schalke in the Champions League. The 1-0 win at La Rosaleda last Saturday was their 30th consecutive game unbeaten, while the 3-1 win over Schalke – for an aggregate 9-2 thrashing – was achieved with a team comprised largely of fringe players. The only black spot for Ancelotti came when Jese suffered a suspected anterior cruciate ligament injury in the opening minutes, effectively ending his season.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s winning goal at Malaga took the Portuguese striker’s tally for the season to 25 goals in La Liga and 39 overall. It also meant that the Madrid front three of Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale have bagged 50 out of Los Blancos’ 77 Primera goals. With his double strike against Schalke on Tuesday night, Ronaldo took his total haul for Real Madrid to 242 goals in just 236 games, bringing him level with the Hungarian great Ferenc Puskas. Only three men – Santillana (290), Alfredo di Stefano (307) and Raul (323) – are ahead of him in the club’s all-time top goalscorers list.