Barcelona head into this derby just one point ahead of their rivals. The fixture never lacks gravitas, but the narrow gulf certainly adds extra spice to the occasion. Earlier in the season Madrid took the upper hand in the La Liga duopoly, coming back from behind to win 3-1 at the Bernabeu and put a dampener on Luis Suarez’ Clasico debut.
The Catalans will no doubt be out for blood, and they come into the second meeting of 2014/15 in better form: they’ve won their last 5 games in all competitions, with Real losing 2 of their last 3. After Los Blancos dropped points to Athletic Bilbao 2 weeks ago there has been considerable disquiet in the Real camp, with fans expressing their anger in typically unrestrained fashion.
An away win for Real on Sunday would do a great deal to heal wounds that are still fresh from the 3-4 home defeat to Schalke last week – whatever the scoreline, however, El Clasico rarely brings disappointment. Here are some of the highlights from the fixture’s rich history…
1. Ronaldinho Masterclass
Madrid fans have come in for a lot of stick recently, but to applaud Barcelona’s Ronaldinho like they did in 2005/2006 – the man who had just dismantled their team on their doorstep – took great humility, and belied a true love of great football.
2. Cruyff El Clasico debut
Johan Cruyff – one of the greatest players of all time, and the man who laid the foundations for total football– had already won half the battle in endearing himself to his new home in Barcelona by publically declaring that he could never play for a side that was linked to Franco. He followed that proclamation up with a relentless performance in his debut Clasico, one which left a frustrated Madrid chasing shadows and cemented the Dutchman’s place in the hearts of the Catalan faithful.
3. Lionel Messi hat-trick
At just 19 years old it would be easy to imagine an occasion as grand as El Clasico debasing a young athlete: even one so precocious as Lionel Messi. Not only did the Argentine stamp his authority on the match, however, he was the crucial difference: the three goals he scored would be enough to salvage a point and spare embarrassment for the Catalans in a match that ended 3-3.
4. 5-0 thrashing
If a young Cruyff dazzled as a player, he left an even more significant mark as a manager. The Dutchman led Barcelona to their first European Cup in 1992 and to four consecutive La Liga titles between 1990-91 and 1993-94. This 5-0 thrashing of their rivals in the 93/94 season was an archetypal display of the ‘Dream Team’ dominance of the era.
5. Laudrup crossing over
Playing an integral part of that 1993/4 season, then-Barcelona forward Michael Laudrup would eventually do the unthinkable and switch sides: taking the La Liga crown from Barca with him to Real in 1994/5 – a title that was due in no small part to this Clasico victory for Madrid.
6.Real’s Guard of Honour
And finally – whilst the game itself was eminently forgettable – this 2008 tie began with what must’ve been a humbling experience for Barca. Having just won the league, Los Blancos were entitled to an obligatory Guard of Honor from their arch-rivals. Ouch.