El Clasico clashes will define season for Barca and Real

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Perhaps the greatest footballing rivalry of them all is about to get even tastier.

For the first time for 95 years, Barcelona and Real Madrid will play four matches in a 17 day spell, in games that will go a long way to deciding the destination of the La Liga title, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.

In simple terms these four games will tell us who the greatest team on the planet is, and who has plenty of work to do to catch them.

Former Nou Campo favourite, Gaizka Mendieta says the excitement building around the fixtures is unpalatable.

"On Sunday when the league games finished, the fans had already started to talk about El Clasico," he told Revista.

"There has never been anything like this; everybody is so excited. That happens when there are two games - with four, even more so," he said.


"The demands mentally and physically - everything to do with El Clasico - are massive. It's huge.

"I feel that somehow you have to try to forget about the rest of the games that are left to be played otherwise you could get quite tired.

"As a player I used to say 'the game has to be played when it comes to the time - you can't play them before otherwise you are already tired'.

Real emerged from the summer having again spent millions to get close to their Catalan rivals.

Mesut Ozil, Ricardo Carvalho, Sami Khedira and Angelo di Maria among others, were brought in by new manager Jose Mourinho, while Barca strengthened their forward line with the signing of David Villa.

Both sides have, until recently, been locking in a titanic tussle at the top of La Liga.


Real's recent defeat to Sporting Gijon has set them eight points off the pace in the title race, and a defeat this weekend would all but end their challenge for their first championship since 2008.

Despite Madrid's 100% home record being broken by Gijon, Mourinho's men still hold the best home record in La Liga, while their opponents Barca hold the best away record.

Whether Saturday's hosts truely believe they can snatch the title away from Barca is uncertain, but they'll be keen to avenge the 5-0 defeat they suffered at the Nou Camp in November.

In the Champions League both have swept aside all that have been put before them.

Madrid disposed of Lyon and Tottenham Hotspur in convincing style in the knock-out stage of the competition, while Barcelona did similar in knocking out Arsenal and Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Copa del Rey final has almost been forgotten as it plays second fiddle to the La Liga and Champions League ties, but its the only match where a trophy is firmly up for grabs.

That contest, above the others, could shape the rest of the season with the psychological advantage of having won the season's first piece of silverware firmly in the victorious teams back pocket.

There's little doubt that whatever the result on Saturday, that Barcelona will waltz to their third straight La Liga title, but a Madrid win might shift the balance of power ahead of the two sides' cup clashes.

Former Madrid man Ivan Campo says losing is not an option when you're representing one of these sides.

"In these games, you never want to lose. These are the very special situations that I've been in. You can play with so many fantastic players," he said.

Eidur Gudjohnson, ex Barcelona forward said: "I always remember one thing that was written on the board before I played in probably my last El Clasico. One of the players wrote: "Don't worry boys, there's only 100million people watching us. I think that says enough!"

Although Manchester United and Schalke might protest, these are the two best sides in Europe, and probably in the world, but after these next two and a half weeks one will stand alone safe in knowledge that it is they who have bragging rights. The only difference is that these bragging rights, stretch right around the world.

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