Barcelona enter Sunday's Clasico encounter one point clear of Real Madrid. The Catalan side have taken full advantage of Los Blancos' recent slip-ups—gaining five points on the capital-based side after Madrid drew with Villarreal and lost to Athletic Bilbao—to grab control of La Liga's title race.
Clasico fixtures are always a huge deal, but with 11 matches remaining, victory might well determine where the silverware ends up this season. This rivalry is one of football's most revered, capturing major interest from audiences across the globe.
Madrid won this term's Bernabeu encounter 3-1, building on last year's Copa del Rey final victory. The last time Barca beat their foes was Mar. 24, 2014, almost a year to the day when the sides meet on Sunday.
As it stands, Madrid are historically more successful when the two clubs clash, recorded by footballzz.co.uk:
|All-Time Clasico Stats|
|Competition||Matched Played||Real Madrid wins||Draws||Barcelona wins|
|La Liga||169||71 (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||228||92 (40%)||48 (21%)||88 (39%)|
Of course, the upcoming fixture takes place at the Camp Nou, an arena in which Barcelona typically dominate when Madrid turn up, per footballzz.co.uk:
|Barcelona vs. Real Madrid: All-Time Records at the Camp Nou|
|Competition||Matched Played||Barcelona wins||Draws||Real Madrid wins|
|La Liga||84||48 (57%)||17 (20%)||19 (23%)|
|Champions League||4||1 (25%)||1 (25%)||2 (50%)|
|Copa del Rey||16||10 (62%)||2 (12%)||4 (25%)|
|Spanish Super Cup||6||4 (67%)||1 (17%)||1 (17%)|
|League Cup||3||1 (33%)||2 (66%)||0 (0%)|
|Total||113||64 (57%)||23 (20%)||26 (23%)|
Barcelona's biggest home win over Madrid came in the 1950-51 La Liga season, when the Blaugrana chalked up an incredible 7-2 scoreline. Madrid's greatest win at the Camp Nou was the 5-1 triumph in 62-63's one-sided battle.
As ever, much of the attention will turn to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi recently overtook the Portuguese star in the race for this season's Golden Shoe award—having currently notched 32 goals in this season's La Liga compared to CR7's 30—reported by Jamie Rainbow of WorldSoccer.com.
The Argentinian was 12 behind at the start of 2015, but hit an excellent stretch of form to propel Luis Enrique's side into top spot. B/R UK's Ryan Bailey and Sam Tighe recently discussed whether the form of both sides lifts La Liga to the pedestal of world's best league:
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Flanked by Neymar and Luis Suarez—the latter of whom made his competitive Barca debut during the reverse fixture in October—it wouldn't be a surprise to see Messi significantly impact the upcoming match, particularly after his terrific Champions League display against Manchester City.
Building on BBC Sport's stats from earlier in the season, Messi has scored 21 in 29 Clasico matches, the record amount. Ronaldo has 14 goals in 22 displays. Barca midfielder Xavi Hernandez is the current record-appearance holder, having played in 41 Clasico matches, while Madrid stopper Iker Casillas is the next in line with 36. In 2011, Karim Benzema scored the fixture's fastest goal after 22 seconds.
Madrid have netted a total of 388 goals against Barca, with their opposition racking up 372.
Both Ronaldo and Madrid continue to receive unfavourable reviews, despite remaining in the hunt for two trophies this campaign. However, Barca boss Luis Enrique isn't willing to bet on who will win, per AS:
Considering Ronaldo suggested he won't speak to the press again this season following his side's Champions League defeat to Schalke, reported by Pete Jenson of the Daily Mail, it will be extremely interesting to witness his reaction if he nets and Madrid win.
Messi is the more obvious hero due to the game's location, Barcelona's form and his improving quality, but it would be dangerous to rule Madrid out. If Carlo Ancelotti can find greater balance between Ronaldo and the side's midfielders, Barca will need to work extremely hard to gain revenge for the season's earlier loss.
Another chapter will be added to this fabled fixture on Sunday, with the main heroes and plotline set to be decided across 90 minutes of free-flowing, attack-minded football.