Sunday, April 17, 2011

El Clasico, one down, three to go

Sat, April 16: Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona
Wed, April 20: Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Spanish Cup final
Wed, April 27: Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Champions League Semi-final, 1st Leg
Tue, May 3: Barcelona vs Real Madrid, Champions League Semi-final, 2nd Leg

Very few rivalries in world football can match Barcelona vs Madrid, so it is something unique to witness these rivals play each other four times in eighteen days in three different competitions. Saturday's 1-1 draw meant that Barcelona are still in a comfortable position to win the Spanish league title but things will get really interesting starting with Wednesday's Copa del Rey final. One of these two teams will win their first trophy of the season on Wednesday, along with bragging rights. Regardless of what happens on April 20, it is next week that will be most important for both teams. Jose Mourinho's entire selling point for getting the Real Madrid job was that he talked about bringing back the Champions League trophy to Madrid, a trophy Real have not won since Zidane's brilliant winner against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002.

Interestingly, the last time both teams played each other in the Champions League was in the semi-finals of 2002. That time, Madrid prevailed 3-1 on aggregate en route to their 9th Champions League trophy. So if Jose is to make good on his promise, then Madrid have to overcome the powerhouse that is Barcelona football club. Last year, Jose had no problems selling himself as the best candidate for Real Madrid even when Real was managed by Manuel Pellegrini. Yet, things have not been easy for Mourinho. Just like he did in Italy, Jose has complained about referees in the league and blamed everyone else but himself for his team's shortcomings. The fact is Madrid have done worse in the league compared to this stage last season under Pellegrini. Plus, Pellegrini never led his Madrid team to a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Barcelona, like Jose did back in November.

Plenty of drama to unfold over the next two weeks. In the meantime, another look at some past El Clásico games:

Real Madrid 2 - 6 Barcelona : May 2, 2009, a double by Henry

Real Madrid 4 - 1 Barcelona: May 7, 2008

Barcelona 3 - 3 Real Madrid: March 10, 2007, Messi hat-trick

Real Madrid 5 - 0 Barcelona: January 7, 1995, Zamorano hat-trick

Barcelona 5 - 0 Real Madrid: January 8, 1994, Romario hat-trick

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