El Clasico, the meeting between La Liga heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid, is arguably the biggest and most famous football match on the planet. Two of the greatest teams in the sport, perennial rivals for domestic and international silverware, these clubs have a tendency to run into each other on every stage and in every competition.
The rivalry was born out of strong political motivation, the Alfredo Di Stefano controversy, via BBC Sport's Andy West, and a healthy rivalry between two of Spain's biggest and most influential cities.
Today's El Clasico still harbours some of that resentment, but mainly, it's a battle of two world-class teams vying for the same trophies—in this case, the La Liga title. And with both clubs in fine form, Saturday's meeting should be another for the ages, with one player in particular having the chance to make history.
Date: Saturday, October 25
Time: 5 p.m. BST/Noon ET
Venue: Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
Head-to-Head Record and Noteworthy Statistics
Los Blancos hold a very slight edge in the rivalry, courtesy of Footballzz.co.uk:
|El Clasico: Head-to-Head|
|Competition||Matched Played||Real Madrid wins||Draws||Barcelona wins|
|La Liga||168||70 (42%)||32 (19%)||66 (39%)|
|Champions League||8||3 (38%)||3 (38%)||2 (25%)|
|Copa del Rey||33||12 (36%)||7 (21%)||14 (42%)|
|Spanish Super Cup||12||6 (50%)||2 (17%)||4 (33%)|
|League Cup||6||0 (0%)||4 (67%)||2 (33%)|
|Total||227||91 (40%)||48 (21ù)||88 (40%)|
As one might expect, home-field advantage has had a large impact on these meetings. Both clubs have won 57 percent of El Clasico's when played in their home stadium, giving Real a slight historical edge on Saturday.
In 227 total meetings, Los Blancos have outscored the Catalans 384 to 368, although El Clasico's top scorer Lionel Messi (21) has done his best to close the gap in recent years.
Football historians often point to the 1943 Copa del Generalisimo semi-final as the true starting point of El Clasico. Real Madrid recorded their biggest win over their rivals on that day, an 11-1 thrashing, but the result came in controversial fashion, as reported by Inside Spanish Football:
In one of the most controversial encounters between Real Madrid and Barcelona, the Copa del Rey or Generalissimo as it was called in the days of General Franco was Real’s biggest ever win over Barca.
Franco was rumoured to have told his troops and followers to threaten the Catalans to lose he match or face lifetime imprisonment. The scoreline suggests they did just that with the referee also subject to threats from the regime.
Barcelona had won the first leg 3-0 but faced an 8-0 deficit after just 45 minutes of the return leg, eventually losing 11-1. The result is not as celebrated in Madrid as one might expect, with local fans agreeing the match wasn't played under fair circumstances.
Los Blancos' second-biggest win came in 1935, a dominant 8-2 performance at home. Barcelona have never beaten Real by more than five goals, but they have achieved the feat on five occasions.
Manuel Sanchis (43) played in more Clasicos than anyone before or since, while Xavi (40) has the most appearances for Barcelona and could gain on Sanchis on Saturday. TalkFCB even wonders if perhaps he should start:
It's only fitting that the most historic football rivalry in the world will see at least one incredible streak come to an end on Saturday. Via WhoScored.com, Claudio Bravo is yet to concede a single goal this season, while Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in all seven of his La Liga outings.
And then there's perhaps the biggest question of them all. Against Eibar, Lionel Messi scored his 250th La Liga goal, and as reported by OptaJoe, he needs just one more to tie the all-time record:
Will Messi tie (or even break) the record at the Bernabeu? And if he does, how will Los Blancos and their fans react? League president Javier Tebas told Marca (h/t Goal's Ruper Fryer) he believes applause is in order, and what he would receive should he hit the mark:
On that same pitch I've seen the crowd give [Diego] Maradona and Ronaldinho a standing ovation. I think Spanish football realises how important the player is to our league. Real Madrid fans know football and have always been a very gentlemanly crowd. If they've applauded these two superstars, why wouldn't they applaud Messi?
Early in the La Liga season, both clubs still look like the favourites for the title. Barcelona hold the advantage in the standings, but with Los Blancos playing in front of their home fans, they should be slight favourites coming into the match.
The most common result for El Clasicos played at the Bernabeu is a 1-1 draw (14 times), and with both teams in top form, a draw would be the safest prediction.