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Barcelona vs. Real Madrid: Why El Clasico Is Bigger Than Ever

MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 02:  Referee Miguel Perez (C) pulls a red card for goalkeeper Victor Valdes (L) of Barcelona, held back by teammates, after the final whistle of the la Liga match between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on March 2, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistOctober 25, 2013

The curtain will be raised on the next chapter of El Clasico this weekend when Barcelona welcome Real Madrid into Camp Nou.

It's a chapter that promises to introduce us to the biggest Clasico ever.

Two new managers are set to be thrown into the cauldron following a summer of change at both clubs; Carlo Ancelotti replaced Jose Mourinho, whose antics were growing tiresome, at Madrid, and Gerardo Martino took over for Tito Vilanova on the Catalan coast.

And the new men could prove just the lick of paint to make the excitement levels soar.

Ancelotti is a manager of great pedigree, having won league titles in Italy, England and France, while Martino arrived from Argentina with a great reputation and the offer of outside influence at Barcelona.

It's clear the Italian is trying to offer a more stylistic approach in the Spanish capital and, coupled with Barcelona's defensive frailties, it could lead to a high-scoring Clasico.

Speaking in B/R's Google+ hangout on Thursday, Guillem Balague went as far as predicting a 3-3 draw, and beIN Sport's Kay Murray leaned toward the theory of plenty of goals too.

Throw in the involvement of Clasico veterans Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and the introduction of two new characters in Neymar and Gareth Bale, and the stage is set for a phenomenal sporting occasion.

Last season's Clasico clashes
CompetitionDateHome teamResultAway team
Supercopa23/08/2012Barcelona3-2Real Madrid
Supercopa29/08/2012Real Madrid2-1Barcelona
La Liga07/10/2012Barcelona2-2Real Madrid
Copa del Rey30/01/2013Real Madrid1-1Barcelona
Copa del Rey26/02/2013Barcelona1-3Real Madrid
La Liga02/03/2013Real Madrid2-1Barcelona
B/R

But it's not just what's going on at both clubs that has elevated the level of the Clasico to such an extreme high, but the globalisation of football too.

The Internet, specifically online streaming and social media, has enabled the popularity of domestic leagues to soar in countries they were previously considered unknown and mysterious.

Across every continent people will tune in to witness the latest installment of Los Blancos vs. La Blaugrana—according to Goal.com, the corresponding fixture last year attracted a worldwide audience of 400 million.

Among the weird and wonderful Clasico-related things floating around on Friday was a tweet carrying a photo from a supermarket in Qatar. The photo revealed a stack of nut containers, nothing overly special, but it was the football kits the nuts were adorning which was of interest.

Half of them were dressed in Barcelona colours, the other half in Madrid white.

In Qatar.

Aside from an online presence, El Clasico has already inspired books and films based on the fixture.

El Clasico: More Than a Game was released in the U.S. in 2011, while just recently The Guardian's Spanish football correspondent, Sid Lowe, released a book called Fear and Loathing in La Liga, which is dedicated to the rivalry.

In Lowe's book is a quote from former Madrid full-back Michel Salgado that sums up the atmosphere around the fixture, via The Guardian:

"It's hostile and bitter, political, territorial. Much, much more than a football match."

Salgado in a past Clasico
Salgado in a past Clasico/Getty Images

Looking back at the names associated with El Clasico, it's not difficult to see why it carries such a huge worldwide appeal and is the catalyst for so much literature.

From the early days of Santiago Bernabeu and Paulino Alcantara, through to Alfredo Di Stefano, Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane, to the players now carrying their respective side's Clasico hopes, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, many of the game's greatest of all time have participated in the rivalry. 

It runs deeper than just great players and great occasions, though.

Many people in Catalunya, the region in which Barcelona lies in Spain, view themselves as being their own country.

There's a deep political history as to why, which dates back to 1714 and before, while continuing through the Franco years—TotalBarca touches on some of the political stuff here.

The movement for independence has taken on a bigger meaning during the economic crisis, and Barcelona's fans often view their fixtures with Madrid as an opportunity to make themselves heard as they seek secession.

But back to the action this weekend, and Neymar is hoping to make himself a Clasico hero in the biggest Clasico yet, via Daily Mail:

The Clasico is the most important game for any player. It is the match every player wants to play in, it is the game where each player wants to play his best football. This will be my first Clasico and I hope to have a great debut, preferably with a victory.

Now, alongside the Brazilian wonderkid, the world will stop rotating for 90 minutes on Saturday to fix their eyes on football's most intriguing rivalry.

History, politics and sporting brilliance have underlined the Clasico in the past, giving it the status it enjoys today—and technology has elevated it even higher.

 

See also: 100 Greatest El Clasico Moments

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