Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has confirmed what many have suspected, that a more notorious Luis will play a role in Saturday’s incredibly-anticipated El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Yes, Luis Suarez. You remember him. Despite his long suspension for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup, the Uruguayan attacker has managed to stay in the headlines on a weekly basis. Whether through appeals, apologies or closed-door scrimmages, Suarez has hung around.
And Saturday he’ll enter the fray of what is perhaps the world’s greatest sporting rivalry, one so intense it inspired a tremendous book by Sid Lowe. To read it is to marvel at the intermingling of sport and government, individuality and team.
El Clasico is upon us, and my goodness will it be a doozy.
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Consider that Suarez’s addition to the rivalry means this match will feature every player to win the European Golden Shoe since 2008-09, the last time someone not named Suarez, Messi or Ronaldo won the award (Diego Forlan, for the trivia buffs). Throw in Andres Iniesta and Xavi, and you have four of the last five Ballon D’Or nominees in the building.
Then there’s the always-simmering tension between the two clubs, ratcheted up by the fact that neither won La Liga last season. Oh, and Real Madrid captured “La Decima” last season, its 10th UEFA Champions League title and its first since Barcelona claimed three between 2006-11.
Yet Barca has roared out of the gates this season, dominating La Liga to the tune of not conceding a single goal through eight games. Worth reading again: not a single goal allowed. The Blaugranes have watched as their favorite team has won 7 of 8 matches, scoring 22 goals. They have a 3-point lead on No. 2 Sevilla and a 4-point lead on rival Real Madrid (Atletico Madrid is five back, in fifth).
Real is also pretty good, you know, despite conceding a pair of head-scratching defeats early in the season (4-2 at Real Sociedad and 2-1 home to Atleti). Cristiano Ronaldo has been a one-man wrecking crew, though he doesn’t need to be. Real’s collection of superstars have posted 5 or more goals on four separate La Liga occasions, including a 8-2 thumping of Deportivo.
And they are rolling in the Champions League as well, thoroughly out-classing Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday. Barca rolled over Ajax 3-1, too, but sit a point behind Paris Saint-Germain in Group F.
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So what we get what we have here this week, which is the way we want it. Well, we get it. And I like it just as much as you folks. A trip to the Santiago Bernabéu with so much power hanging in the balance, and so many absurdly-juicy questions.
– Can Barca possibly keep its season-long clean sheet untainted against such a majestic group of offensive superstars?
– Can Real Madrid potentially limit Lionel Messi from the two goals he needs to break Telmo Zarra’s all-time La Liga goalscoring record in their building?
– Moreover, can Real stop Neymar, a player realizing his potential to join the truly elite?
– With Sevilla facing a test in Villarreal, can Barcelona finish the weekend with a five-point lead on the entire table?
We can’t wait to find out.