El Clasico—the match that so many fans have been waiting to see—is finally upon us as Real Madrid visit Barcelona this Saturday in an attempt to secure the La Liga crown.
This will be the sixth matchup between these two footballing giants this season, but it is by far the most significant. If Madrid are to come away victorious and take a seven point lead at the top of the table, this match will have signaled the end to the title race, giving the Galacticos a clear path to their first league championship since 2008.
Three points for the Catalan club would make things so very interesting going into the final few weeks of the campaign, as Madrid would be playing with the knowledge that even the slightest slip-up would most likely see them relinquish their grasp on the title.
Both sides will be going into the match on a loss, following setbacks in the UEFA Champions League against Bayern Munich and Chelsea, respectively. But in these derby matches—especially one of this magnitude—recent form often accounts for very little, meaning we should see each team at its very best this weekend.
Here are some of the things to expect from what promises to be an enthralling encounter.
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona
When: Saturday, April 21, 2 p.m. ET
Watch: GolTV, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3 and ESPN3.com
Once the match is underway, follow all the action live with Mohamed Al-Hendy.
Players To Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi
With so many world class players on the pitch when these two teams meet, it is difficult to select just one from either side as potential match-winners. At any moment, the like of Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Mesut Ozil and Karim Benzema—just to name a few—could provide the crucial piece of magic to decide the contest.
But without a doubt, most eyes will be on the world's two best players this Saturday, as the battle between the Portuguese and Argentinian superstars adds another chapter to its history book.
The two men sit tied atop the league scoring chart, each with a remarkable 41 goals on the season. Ronaldo's pace and power down the flank coupled with his incredible shooting ability after cutting in from those wide areas always makes him a threat to find the net, as does Messi's uncanny ability to pick up the ball from deep and weave beyond opposing defenders like they aren't even there.
Whoever can add to their goal total this weekend will have a massive impact on the outcome of the match.
Will Ronaldo step up and get the better of the Barca man, or will it be Messi who shines brightest once again during El Clasico?
Who will win the match?
For the rest of the key matchups this Saturday, check out Frank Wagner's piece here.
What They're Saying
Barcelona's midfield maestro Xavi will be on of the key men on the pitch this Saturday, and he recently outlined how his team will approach the highly anticipated match.
"We always want the ball, to be in charge of the game, to maintain those long spells of possession that help us control the game and, from there, we try to win the match. We can't change the way we play now. We have taken this approach against all of our rivals, and against Madrid at home we will try to do this more than ever - to have more of the ball and attack more than we ever have to secure the victory."
If the Catalan giants can indeed dictate the tempo as they so often do, it could be a long day for the Galacticos.
Continue reading that same report to see what he had to say about the Ronaldo vs. Messi debate.
Prediction: 3-2 Barcelona
When they're playing at home, Barcelona are as close to unbeatable as there is in world football today. However, they have shown this season that they are somewhat vulnerable in defense, meaning we can expect goals to flow on each end of the pitch.
Barca will monopolize possession and create chances as they always do, but with Madrid's lightning fast counter-attack, they too will have opportunities. The question is, will they take them?
In a heated affair—as always—look for Barca to get the better of their hated rivals once again, with Andres Iniesta scoring the winning goal.