Guys, and gals off course, as you my have noticed by now, I love football! There isn’t a particular team in Europe I like more than the other. What I want to see is attractive and tactical football. I really don’t care if it’s being played by Ajax in 94/95, FC Barcelona during the Rijkaard/Guardiola era or perfected to detail by Heynckes and Bayern Munich last year.
However, there is one match I look forward to every year and that is El Clasico, the match between Spanish giants Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. This game has it all, from super star attackers and creative midfielders to a solid defensive block with great goalies.
But what I like the most about this game, which was first played in 1902 and won by FC Barcelona, is the atmosphere around it. It is, without a doubt, the biggest game in sports worldwide. Around 500 million people will tune in for this match and the stadium will be packed with crazed fans.
And this edition will be even more exciting after last summer’s transfer window action. Because not only will we see the two best players in the world, Messi and Ronaldo, show their skills but there are two new kids on the block who are looking to prove that they belong to best of the best.
Neymar, Brazilian diamond in the rough
Barcelona managed to sign Brazilian sensation Neymar. The 21-year-old winger is one of the greatest talents I have seen over the last few years.
Before he came to Barcelona, Neymar played for Santos in the Brazilian Série A. He joined their youth academy in 2003 and made his debut in the first team in March 2009. In the years that followed Neymar won the Bola de Ouro for best player in Brazil and was chosen best player in South America twice, in 2011 and 2012.
On June 3rd of this year FC Barcelona officially presented Neymar as their new signing. The Catalan club paid somewhere around 57 million euros for him. The youngster started off well at his new team, scoring three goals and six assists in thirteen contests.
Bale, struggling in Madrid
Real Madrid had to answer the Neymar-deal with the signing of a world-class player of their own. They decided to go for Welshman, and Tottenham Hotspur winger, Gareth Bale. The transfer was finalized on the final day of the window. Madrid paid nearly a 100 million for the man from Cardiff.
On April 17th of 2006 the then 16-year-old Bale made his first steps in the world of professional football. He played for Southampton FC at the time.
About a year later, in the spring of 2007, it was made public that Bale would transfer to Tottenham Hotspur. The Spurs pulled him in for six million euros, a fee that could go up to as much as 10 million due to bonuses.
After a rough start at Tottenham, because of multiple injuries, Garry started showing his potential. Resulting in a great season last year, which earned him three awards. He was chosen PFA Player of the Year, PFA Young Player of the Year the FWA Player of the Year. He is the second player to get all three honors in the same season; the other is Ronaldo back in 2007.
Due to injuries Bale missed this year’s preseason and could not contribute much in Madrid’s early season but looking at his Tottenham days, I am not to concerned and believe he will be a true asset to Los Blancos in the near future.
Honoring Tito Vilanova
Not only will the emotions be flowing on the pitch but they will flow off the field as well.
The Spanish media are reporting that FC Barcelona has planned an extremely emotional spectacle when the players walk out on the field on Saturday.
FC Barcelona will honor their former manager, Tito Vilanova, with a mosaic in the stadium. Vilanova, who is battling throat cancer, had to resign from his post last July due to his illness and the treatment of it.
The mosaic will be made using both the Catalan colors yellow and red, as well as Barcelona’s blue and red. Combined it will spell out Força Tito, meaning Chin up, Tito.
Barca’s home advantage might do the trick
Prior to this game Real Madrid lie three points behind FC Barcelona in the Primera Division, it will be doubled when they lose at Camp Nou, which could be the start of a gap-closing race to the finish for Madrid.
So it is very important for Carlo Ancelotti’s men not to suffer a defeat. Therefor I expect Real Madrid to dig in, keep the lines close together, and try to profit from the space behind the Catalan defense.
With fast players like Ronaldo, Bale and Di Maria on Madrid’s side, Barcelona should be worried about this tactic. Especially because of their own play style, with fullbacks who like to attack and don’t really like to defend as much as maybe needed.
This is something that Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino will know as well. He will likely be able to come up with a tactic to prevent them from being countered to a loss. And with the ability of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta to find a way through compact defenses, it will be interesting to see what happens.
Predicting the outcome in this match is always difficult. As mentioned, both teams have great talent so the game could be decided by a moment of brilliance from one of them.
But I believe the home advantages may just be the extra push FC Barcelona needs to win this edition of El Clasico but it will be a narrow one.
FC Barcelona 2 – 1 Real Madrid