“The world stops to watch El Clasico”, Real Madrid left back Marcelo said in an interview recently. The Brazilian is not wrong. The stage is set for another epic encounter between two of football’s biggest teams – Real Madrid and Barcelona. Following the Champions League shenanigans that saw Real Madrid advancing and Barca crashing, the rivalry between the two sides has already intensified with Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos taking digs at each other. But this weekend, for both sides, there is more to play for apart from the historic rivalry. This Clasico could turn into the league decider.
Zinedine Zidane’s side currently lead the table with 75 points and have one game advantage over Barcelona. A win on Sunday could well and truly shut the competition against second place Barca, who are trailing by three points. A win will take Los Blancos to 78 points, 6 points ahead of Luis Enrique’s side. With an extra game in hand against Celta Vigo at Balaidoas, Madrid can hope to feel comfortable of gaining another 3 points over Catalans, thus extending their lead to 9 points. Even a draw in the game against Celta Vigo will take them 7 points ahead, which might prove too much for Barca to regain, with six games to go.
Another advantage for Real Madrid in the El Clasico is they have the option to draw the game, if things do not go as per plans. A draw would still mean Real maintain their three point advantage over Barca which would still hurt Luis Enrique’s dream of lifting the trophy once more before bidding farewell to Nou Camp. Zidane would not really mind a draw at this stage, if it means he could keep up his lead. If Barcelona wants to stay in the competition, this Clasico is must-win.
A win against Madrid would be a huge boost for Barcelona, as not only would it lift the spirits of the camp after Champions League exit, it would also take them to first position in the table. 3 points will take their total to 75 points and with a better goal difference than Madrid, Barcelona will leave Santiago Bernabeu as the table toppers. The defeat will put pressure right back on Madrid, forcing them to try and win all their remaining encounters. Even with an extra game in their hands, a slight slip up can mean them losing out on yet another glorious chance to win their first La Liga trophy in 5 years.
Barcelona central defender Javier Mascherano summed up the mood of the dugout in an interview before the all important fixture: “We have to win at the Bernabeu and hope that Real Madrid drop further points,” the Argentinian said.