A victory in el Clásico and Real Madrid are back in the game in La Liga, a loss and it could be curtains on the team’s chances of remaining the title
It’s almost Christmas time and a Clásico awaits us mere hours before much of the planet sits down together and eats frantically until their bellies are full. After a week full of randomly scheduled fixtures every single day between Tuesday and Saturday, this Real Madrid-Barça will offer the fandom a number of reasons to believe, should Ernesto Valverde’s men snatch a win on enemy ground, that LaLiga won’t be conquered by Los Blancos for the second year in a row.
The difference in the standings is currently acute enough: a huge eleven-point gap separates Barça from Real, who stands in the fourth spot. A defeat would send them to a catastrophically gigantic 14-point difference. Even if they won their pending game against Leganés in February, it would mean that Barça must lose four games throughout the next five months (and, you know, Madrid definitely winning every single game) in order to clear such a huge hurdle.
?⚽️ We're ready to go! Take a look at the highlights of our final training session ahead of El Clásico!#RMCity | #RMClasico pic.twitter.com/hnRjoEQkUJ
— Real Madrid C.F. ???? (@realmadriden) December 22, 2017
Stats and point difference aside, the saucy bickering in the days running up towards the titan showdown has focused on Madrid’s win in the 2017 Club World Cup and if Barça should show class by performing the traditional guard of honor. Controversy exploded early in the week after Culé representatives informed the media that their team wouldn’t do it as they hadn’t taken part in that competition. Later, the Madridista fanbase expressed their outrage, and they’re entitled to.
Lots of hot-takes have been written about the matter, but ultimately the two managers have been the ones to put out the flame war: both Valverde and Zinedine Zidane shrugged off the argument and gave zero relevance to it. The guard of honor won’t take place and the world will keep on turning.
"I wouldn't do it for anyone, nor want it to be done for us." @FCBarcelona boss weighs in on pre-Clasico's contentious issue.
QUOTES ?https://t.co/8jGdiAjhZR pic.twitter.com/Yn6jM900hy
— MARCA in English (@MARCAinENGLISH) December 22, 2017
As usual, most of the spotlight will be shared by football stars Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese striker’s participation wasn’t confirmed till the last minute, as he had suffered several physical setbacks throughout the week that added a question mark next to his participation in the big game. However, everyone knew that nothing would be able to keep Cristiano away from his favourite game to play: on Friday it was disclosed that he will be a starter, even if doctors believe he isn’t at his best shape.
In Barça camp, Leo Messi reigns supreme although he seems to be out of luck: after all, he was denied by the post three times in his last LaLiga appearance and his scoring production has decreased in December. Nevertheless, he comfortably sits on top of the marksmen list (14 goals), in front of Valencianista Simone Zaza (10) and his pal Luis Suarez.
✈️ Barça are on their way to Madrid ahead of Saturday's #ElClásico ?? #ForçaBarça pic.twitter.com/Xz1eI6BEic
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 22, 2017
The Uruguayan killer has bounced back from his slump and is slowly getting back to tip top shape, with six goals scored in the last four games and a total of nine strikes. We shouldn’t forget Paco Alcacer’s role in his improvement: with the young striker moving around and opening spaces in the defence, Suarez has plenty of maneuver space to drill holes in opposite sides.
With Madrid’s motivation running high after winning a – righteously criticized – Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, the last special condition which will have an impact on this Clásico will be the bizarre scheduling of the fixture, at 1pm (Spanish time). LaLiga’s obsession on accommodating any content to Asian audiences has reached tremendous levels of absurdity, eventually pleasing any fans abroad which might have an interest in Spanish football while local fans get the shaft with infamous dates and times. Lucky you, Asian TV viewers!!!
PS. Another ‘derby’ between Valencia and Villarreal will take place hours after El Clásico. Football-wise, I must point out that it actually might be more interesting and exciting than the game played in Madrid.