With the league title pretty much wrapped up by Barcelona, one could be tempted to think that this weekend's installment of El Clásico will pale in comparison to the next three. But that couldn't be further way from the truth, especially from Real Madrid's perspective.
Los Merengues have lost the last five Clásicos, which is an all-time Clásico record. More importantly, these defeats have all been pretty convincing, namely the 2-6 in 2009 and the 5-0 last November.
For Real Madrid, there's no bigger humiliation than being second best to Barcelona. Despite the huge lead Barca currently holds in La Liga, there's little doubt that Real Madrid will play tomorrow's match as if it were a final. Even if they can't really win La Liga (unless Barca suffers a spectacular implosion), they'll be eager to put an end to this horror series of defeats at the hands of their eternal rivals.
The Bernabeu crowd won't be happy with anything less than a win. Enduring a six straight defeat would be very painful for the Madrid faithful, and even a draw wouldn't bring much joy after November's slaughter.
But it's not just Real Madrid who will be motivated to win, but Barcelona as well. Most of Barcelona's first team has grown in La Masia and they know fully well what the Clásico means for both clubs and regions. Even if they have one hand on the league title already, the sole goal will be to further extend the gap at the top. Pep Guardiola and the Barcelona players won't want to miss this opportunity to inflict further pain on their rivals as well as secure the league title, which Guardiola has always said is Barcelona's priority.
The blaugrana outfit has received a massive boost as their captain Carles Puyol has been passed fit and was included in the squad for the game after a long absence. Even if he can't still play 90 minutes, his presence alone is sure to lift the morale of the side.
The world's greatest player Lionel Messi has just beaten the Spanish record for goals in a single season with 48 (and counting) and he'll be eager to add some more against one of his favorite victims, Real Madrid. But the Argentine genius is only the "leader" of a true star parade that will include the runner-ups of the 2010 Ballon d'Or award Xavi and Iniesta, the 2007 and 2008 Ballon d'Or recipients Kaká and Cristiano Ronaldo, 90 percent of the Spanish World Champions and two of the world's greatest managers.
El Clásico is the world's biggest club fixture and four Clásicos in three weeks is surely every football fan's dream. It will be the pinnacle of the 2010/2011 football season as the two Spanish giants battle for supremacy on all fronts, with Barcelona once again set to reign supreme in La Liga.
May the games begin and may the best team win!