It’s the match in Spanish soccer, or across the world for that matter, that draws the widespread interest for all its star power clashing head-to-head.
But this specific El Clasico shows the usual two powerhouse La Liga teams–Real Madrid and Barcelona–in different states.
Real’s first half to the season displayed the most formidable side in the world, extending a magnificent 22-game victorious run, as Carlo Ancelotti’s side was buoyed by the high scoring efforts of Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
While Barcelona was not on the same level at that point in the year, the tables have turned lately, with Los Blancos losing two of their past four games–a 1-0 defeat to mid-table Athletic Bilbao and 4-3 loss to Schalke (albeit a win on aggregate) in Champions League play.
Ronaldo has scored only five goals in 2015 so far, while Gareth Bale netted a brace against Levante with a positive result. However, the Welshman, who enjoyed a fantastic stretch spanning from December into January, had braved nine games without notching an assist and ten games without scoring a goal.
These two players for Real have endured a fair amount of criticism, while Barcelona have cruised to nine victories in their past ten competitions to launch themselves into La Liga’s first place.
Barcelona midfielder Gerard Pique, though, asserted that Real’s latest uneven stretch should have little bearing on the game at hand.
“This isn’t their best moment of the season,” he said. “But the form book goes out the window for the Clasico. Each side has a 50 percent chance of winning.
“They have Cristiano and Bale — two players that are very powerful, very fast, very dangerous in the one-on-one and who score goals…Benzema gives them balance. He looks to receive the ball and then takes on players to get into the area. It’s vital for us to stop him.”
In the end, Real and Barcelona can match each other blow for blow, skill for skill, and it’s no doubt that Ronaldo and Co. will enter this contest with high intensity and an determined attitude to prove themselves once again.