Competition is the very essence of sport. Every match, every team needs someone to beat. It’s just that some opponents you enjoy beating even more than others! This might be because of a long-standing animosity or a specific past insult to revenge. These “grudge matches” are amongst the most anticipated and best viewed games of the entire season. One of the most notorious match-ups – the mother of all grudge matches – is El Clásico!
El Clásico is the match between Futbol Club Barcelona and Real Madrid Club de Fútbol. Other than the UEFA Champions League Final, it is the most followed club football match in the world, watched by hundreds of millions of people.
FOUR EPIC MATCH-UPS IN 18 DAYS – EL QUATRICO!
Due to luck and the strong performance of both teams, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona will be playing each other four times in the course of only 18 days. The first of those four matches takes place in Madrid– a regular season game and a pivotal fixture in this year’s national title race. The second takes place in Valencia and is the 107th Spanish Cup Final since its establishment. The third is the first semi-final of the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final on April 26, and the fourth match will be the decisive UEFA Champions League Semi-Final return on May 3.
April 16 La Liga, Madrid
April 20 Copa Del Rey Final, Valencia
April 27 UEFA Champions League, Semi-Final (Round 1)
May 3 UEFA Champions League, Semi-Final (Round 2)
THE GRUDGE – HISTORY
Both FC Barcelona as well as Real Madrid were amongst the ten founding teams of the first Primera División in 1929. From the start the clubs were each others’ main rivals. They represented the two main rival regions and cities in Spain: Catalonia (Barcelona) and Castile (Madrid). The rivalry embodies what many regard as the nationalistic, political, and cultural tensions felt between the Catalans and the Castilians. Spain suffered the dictatorship of Franco until 1975. During this time all regional cultures were suppressed. Symbolizing the Catalan people’s desire for freedom, Barça became ‘More than a club’ (Més que un club). Joining the club became the best way for the Catalans to celebrate their identity and express their dissidence.
Real Madrid was widely seen as the embodiment of the sovereign oppressive centralism and the fascist regime. During the 1950s the rivalry grew because of the controversy surrounding the transfer of Alfredo di Stefano (arguably one of the most impactful players of all time) who finally ended up playing for Real Madrid and was key to their subsequent success (the club won the European Cup five times in a row between 1956 and 1960). The 1960s saw the rivalry reach the European stage when they met twice at the knock-out rounds of the European Cup an event to be repeated later this month. Here’s a video covering some recent El Clásico history.
SIZE DOES MATTER
A 2007 survey determined that Real Madrid was the team with the largest following in Spain. 32% of the Spanish population supported Real Madrid, while 25% supported Barcelona. Barcelona in turn is more popular in Europe than Madrid. Barcelona almost has 60 million fans around Europe, while Real Madrid has just over 30 million. Globally, Real Madrid is the most popular football club in the world with over 228 million supporters worldwide. Real Madrid is also the most successful club in European football and holds the record of 9 UEFA Champions League trophies, the last of which came in 2002. If they are capable of winning the competition this year they would become the first club to reach double figures in European titles. Catalan giants Barcelona have won the UEFA Champions League 3 times, most recently in 2009.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
This is the match between the most successful club in the history of the game vs. one of the best teams the sport has ever seen. If there is a club capable of stopping the world’s best player, Leo Messi ,and his team from winning the UEFA Champions League, it’s most probably Real Madrid. FIFA World Player of the Year Leo Messi scores a lot of goals for Barcelona but he also creates chances for others. With him – and the strongest midfield in the game – Barca goes into these matches being the clear favourite.
Real coach José Mourinho, aka “the special one” is regarded by many as the best manager in world football today and worked at F.C. Barcelona for years. He has shown in the recent past that he knows how to beat the Catalan side. A strong goallie (Casillas), creativity on the midfield (Özil) and the unpredictable class of Ronaldo and Adebayor up front make Real Madrid a very tough opponent to beat. Maybe this video gives the Madrid fans some hope.
Enjoy the match(es)!