El Clasico is the game to talk about this year and millions are desperate to see the singular drama of one appear in this year’s Champions League final, but this weekend’s Clasico could dash those hopes.
Barcelona host Real Madrid at the Nou Camp in the two sides’ sixth meeting of the season and it does not look like deviating from the usual frenetic and sometimes farcical fare that we are served up.
Probably the most high profile derby in European football at the moment, El Clasico has an inherent furious passion to it that has only been heightened in the past season and a half.
They have met in the Copa del Rey, last season’s Champions League semi-final, they are closely matched in La Liga this year and there is a spectre of expectation surrounding them for the ultimate derby showdown in Munich next month.
What a grand show that would be! Only the script is not being followed quite so comfortably as both lost the first leg of their respective Champions League semi-finals this week.
Real at the hands of a Bayern Munich with almost gale force pressurising and an irrepressible will to attack; Barca undone by a stoic and resilient Chelsea performance that was laced equally with sweat, hilarity and fortune.
They have both been left with considerable obstacles; maybe not mountain sized climbs, but a steep hill at the very least.
They also face a dilemma and decision that could land a decisive blow to their hopes for the season should it backfire.
Jose Mourinho’s side lead the Catalans by four points at the summit of the Primera Division and desperately need to avoid defeat, as they have stuttered slightly in the past few weeks and a not unusual title-chasing neurosis could develop under the pressure – something Manchester City in the Premier League know all about.
Barcelona desperately need to win if they are to have a realistic chance of retaining their title.
Los Merengues do not a have a great recent record against Barcelona – they have beaten them just once in the last 14 meetings – and teams visiting the Nou Camp rarely leave with anything.
Neither side can afford to lose the game and the nature of the fixture means that anything other than 100 per cent commitment will not be tolerated, if even pondered.
El Clasico has developed into something more about confrontation than the actual football over the past couple of years and Saturday's installment promises to be a typically bruising, draining encounter.
Energy will be something both sides have great need of in their midweek semi-final second legs, so an all or nothing ding-dong with hated rivals is unlikely to be conducive to recuperation of sorts.
It could actually be El Clasico that delivers the final blow to the chances of a Champions League final Clasico – oh the irony.
Pep Guardiola’s side have the reality of a 1-0 deficit against Chelsea and, in all probability, an energy-sapping game of attack v defence in the Nou Camp on Tuesday.
Meanwhile Real have to overturn their own one-goal arrears at the Santiago Bernabeu, but do so with caution against one of the most dangerous counter-attacking teams in Europe.
These are both mouth-watering prospects for the neutrals looking on, but they will provide headaches for the coaching staff of both sides.
So, could it be conceivable that one or both may see Saturday’s showdown as dispensable in favour of improved Champions League chances? Not likely.
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