Afternoon all! Well, there are certainly some massive football occasions across the world, but El Clasico
arguably tops them all. The wonderful arena that is the Camp Nou is the setting this afternoon in Spain as Barcelona welcome Real Madrid. A lot is unknown in football, but one thing is for certain – there are always fireworks when the two Spanish giants meet.
In total, Real Madrid have won 90 of the 224 competitive matches between the two sides, while Barcelona have won 86. Los Blancos also boast the largest-ever victory in this particular match, with an 11-1 score in the second leg of the 1943 Copa del Generalisimo semi-finals. Anyone for 11-1 this afternoon? I suspect that you might receive some favourable odds.
BREAKING TEAM NEWS: Cesc Fabregas starts for the home side this afternoon, with the Spaniard named in a three-man midfield alongside Xavi and Sergi Busquets. Lionel Messi is also fit to start. Real Madrid, meanwhile, hand a start to Gareth Bale. It also appears that Pepe will start in a midfield role for Carlo Ancelotti's side. Full teams to follow.
BARCELONA: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano; Busquets, Fabregas, Xavi; Iniesta, Messi, Neymar
REAL MADRID: Lopez; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Khedira, Pepe, Modric; Ronaldo, Bale, Di Maria
So there we have it. No Pedro or Alexis Sanchez
in the Barcelona XI, with Gerardo Martino preferring Iniesta in a more advanced role. Jordi Alba remains on the sidelines, while there is no place for Carlos Puyol despite his return to fitness. Madrid, meanwhile, leave Karim Benzema and Isco on the bench. What an occasion it is for Bale.
As mentioned, Barcelona have not beaten Real Madrid in the league since December 2011, when the Catalan outfit came from behind to win 3-1 in Madrid. In total, the two sides met six times across all competitions last season. Barcelona won just once – in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup, before losing on away goals in Madrid.
The corresponding league fixture in this stadium last season ended in a 2-2 draw. Unsurprisingly, the match was ultimately decided by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with both players hitting a brace. Real Madrid were 2-1 winners in the Bernabeu, however, with Sergio Ramos winning it late on for the home side.
The Spanish giants also met in the Copa del Rey last season, with Real Madrid booking their spot in the final courtesy of a 4-2 victory on aggregate. While that loss would have hurt Barcelona, La Liga is the bread and butter for both teams. Success in that particular competition has belonged to Los Blancos in the last couple of seasons.
As mentioned, Barcelona enter the match top of La Liga having won eight and drawn one of their nine fixtures thus far. That draw came against Osasuna last time out in their most disappointing performance of the season. It will come as no surprise that Barcelona are currently the top scorers in the league with 28, while they have conceded just six times.
Gerardo Martino’s side also enter the match having won their last 19 La Liga matches in their own stadium. They have won every league fixture in the Camp Nou this season, while they won 18 and drew one of their 19 games on their own patch last season. What’s more, they have conceded just four times in their four league matches at home this season.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, currently sit third in the table, three points behind Barcelona and two adrift of Atletico Madrid. They dropped points away to Villarreal on September 14, before losing to rivals Atletico at the end of the month. Since that defeat, however, they have won their last four matches in all competitions.
It has been far from plain sailing for Real Madrid, however, with Los Blancos needing late goals against Elche and Levante to claim all the points in recent weeks. It would be fair to say that they are yet to really find their top form. Goals have also been less frequent with 19 in their nine matches, while they have conceded nine times – three more than Barcelona.
Both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have scored eight times in the league this season. The former has 12 goals in nine outings in all competitions, while Ronaldo has 15 in 12 games. Messi is the joint-top scorer in Clasicos, however, having struck 18 times, the same number as former Real Madrid forward Alfredo di Stefano.
There is also an interesting sub-plot in this match with Barcelona’s Neymar and Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale hoping to make their mark. Both arrived at their respective clubs for big money in the summer, but it has been an injury-hit start for Bale. Neymar, however, has been impressive in the early stages of his career in Spain.
When questioned on the importance of El Clasico
last week, Neymar refused to play down its significance. He told his club’s official website: “El Clasico is the most important game for any player. It's the match every player wants to play in, and is the game where each player wants to play his best football. This will be my first Clasico and I hope to have a great debut, preferably with a victory.”
Meanwhile, former Barcelona and Real Madrid winger Luis Figo has tipped the home side to “dominate” proceedings this afternoon. “Barca will dominate because they are playing at home and for the way that they play. Madrid I hope will find that balance that will allow them to move from defence to attack well, and so that they can win,” the Portuguese told Grada360.
Ahead of this particular match, Sports Mole
put together a Barcelona/Real Madrid combined XI
. Would you have done anything different? I suspect that the team would win a fair few trophies. There are seven Spaniards in the XI, which is an indication of the state of the national team at the moment.
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, whose autobiography has caused quite a stir in recent days, paid tribute to Barcelona, branding the Catalan side “the beat team ever to line up” against Manchester United. He wrote in his book: “Barca was the best team ever to line up against my Manchester United sides. The group of world-beaters who formed around Lionel Messi were formidable.”
PREDICTION: Well, how long is a piece of string?! This match really is that difficult to call. It depends who turns up. It may be seen as sitting on the fence, but I am going to have to back a draw in the Camp Nou. It would not be a surprise to see both Messi and Ronaldo on the scoresheet in a 1-1 draw. Little over five minutes until kickoff in Barcelona.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch ahead of kickoff. Just a reminder that Messi starts for the home side, while there is a place for Bale in the Real Madrid XI. The time for talking is over. Three points for Real Madrid would move them level with Barcelona at the top of the table.
The pre-match handshakes have been undertaken and the flags have been exchanged. It must be said that there is a sensational atmosphere inside the stadium. It is the biggest game in Spain and arguably the biggest game in world football. The first Clasico of the season. Right, Madrid get the first period underway.
No real surprise that Barcelona have taken control of the possession in the opening couple of moments with the likes of Pique and Busquets seeing plenty of the ball. Pepe, as expected, has lined up in defensive midfield for the away side. Neymar has early possession down the left, but he comes inside before running into fellow Brazilian international Marcelo.
The Camp Nou is not known as the loudest stadium in Spain, but there is a wonderful atmosphere this early evening in Spain. Early chance for Messi to get on the ball, but his cross is cleared by Carvajal. Not too much from the likes of Bale and Ronaldo thus far, with the away side struggling for possession of the ball inside the opening four minutes.
Fabregas has an effort from outside the box, but it clips the back of Neymar, who had moved into an offside position. The Brazilian has been given licence to roam in the early stages in the Camp Nou. Madrid enjoy possession outside the Barca box moments later, but Di Maria's cross is straight into the arms of Valdes in the Barcelona goal.
Again it's brilliant link-up between Neymar and Iniesta outside the Madrid box, but Ramos comes across to clear at the vital moment. Iniesta regains possession moments later, but it is too crowded outside the box. Not too difficult to realise that Madrid will sit deep and attempt to counter here, as Ronaldo is chopped down by Pique inside his own half.
Better from Madrid in terms of possession in the last couple of moments with Ronaldo and Di Maria starting to see more of the ball. The away side have a free kick outside the box moments later as Busquets fells Di Maria, with the Barca midfielder gaining a yellow card for his troubles. However, the resulting free kick comes to nothing as Ramos is deemed to have fouled Alves during an altercation inside the box.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last couple of moments with both sides guilty of losing possession too easily in the final third. Messi has started to see more of the ball, but Ronaldo is dropping very deep and has twice denied the Argentine outside the box. Neymar finds Fabregas moments later, who slides in Messi, but Lopez is out to claim at the vital moment.
Patient football from Barcelona at the moment, with Real Madrid closing the space outside the box. Xavi attempts to find Messi moments later, but once more Lopez is out to claim. We have not seen too much from Bale thus far, with the Welshman operating on the left for the away side. Meanwhile, the challenges are starting to arrive, with both sets of players getting involved with the referee.
Half-chance for Ronaldo as the Portuguese collects possession outside the box before attempting to test Valdes, but his effort is high and wide of the crossbar. The away side are starting to see more of the ball, meanwhile, with Khedira and Ramos forcing the issue. Bale has a header into the Barcelona box moments later, but Pique clears.
Wonderful work from Neymar on the edge of the box as he creates a couple of yards before attempting to bend one into the far corner, but Lopez is on hand to collect at the vital moment. The Brazilian has looked the most likely in the opening 19 minutes. Neither has had a clear chance of note, however, with the two sides cancelling each other out.
GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Real Madrid (Neymar)
Barcelona take the lead with 19 minutes on the clock. Neymar had looked the most likely and he indeed opens the scoring. The Brazilian dances into the box before slotting a low effort into the bottom corner, albeit via a deflection off Carvajal. This stadium has just erupted.
CHANCE! Wonderful chance for Messi to make it 2-0 as the Argentine bursts beyond the Madrid defence before attempting to curl one into the bottom corner, but his effort just moves wide of the post. Barcelona really have their tails up at the moment.
Real Madrid just need to keep their calm here as the challenges continue to arrive in the middle of the park. Modric and Khedira have not been allowed to settle in the last couple of moments with Busquets and Fabregas in control. You just get the feeling that the next goal - if there indeed is one - could be vital in this type of match.
The whistles erupt around the stadium as Real Madrid enjoy a period of possession, but it does not last long with Busquets across to clear the danger. You just get the feeling that the away side will get chances, especially on the counter attack. Thus far, however, it is going Barcelona's way with 27 minutes on the clock in the Camp Nou.
Half-chance for Bale this time as the Welshman collects possession outside the box before driving towards goal, but his final effort is high and wide of the crossbar. Barcelona had a slight chance just before, but Carvajal was on hand to clear a Messi cross, with Neymar waiting at the far post. End-to-end football in the first Clasico of the season, as Di Maria delivers a free kick wide of the post.
Good spell for the away side in the last couple of moments with the likes of Bale and Ronaldo more involved in the final third. A break does occur moments later as Alves picks the pocket of Di Maria before finding Neymar, but Modric clears on the edge of the box. Neymar has been just sensational in the opening 32 minutes of football in the Camp Nou.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last couple of moments, but the match is certainly more even. A poor back-pass from Pique almost causes Valdes problems for the home side, but the Spaniard manages to clear. The opening 34 minutes of this match have just flown past. You wait for these matches all year and they go past in a flash. Still 1-0 to Barcelona courtesy of that Neymar strike.
Really poor challenge from Adriano as the Barcelona defender dives into Ronaldo, with the Brazilian gaining a yellow card for his troubles. The resulting free kick is taken by Di Maria, but Pique is on hand to clear the danger - it hits the arm of Bale, with the referee awarding a free kick. Little under 10 minutes of the first period remaining.
Neymar is again on the shoulder of Pepe, but this time the Brazilian is found in an offside position. Real Madrid have just struggled to force the issue in the last couple of moments with Barcelona taking charge of the possession once more. Meanwhile, the referee continues to become involved in a number of challenges. The temperature is rising.
More handbags between the two sets of players as Messi challenges Pepe on the edge of the box. It did appear that the Real Madrid defender got the ball, but the referee awarded a free kick. The resulting set piece is delivered into the box by Messi, but his effort is cleared by Pepe.
Barcelona continue to force the issue in the latter stages of the first period with Messi dropping deeper and deeper into the midfield. Real Madrid, meanwhile, have been unable to really counter the home side in the opening 43 minutes of football here. It is so delicately poised as we enter the final stages of the first period.
CHANCE! Madrid's best chance comes on the stroke of the interval as Ronaldo's low cross is met by Khedira, but somehow Valdes manages to make the save. Khedira wants a penalty as Adriano appeared to handle on the ground, but the referee is not interested. What an end to the half.
HALF-TIME: Barcelona 1-0 Real Madrid
So there we have it. The referee brings the half to an end with Barcelona leading 1-0 courtesy of that strike from Neymar after 19 minutes. It has been a half of few chances, with Madrid's best opportunity coming on the stroke of the interval, when Khedira could only turn into the arms of Valdes following a dangerous cross from Ronaldo.
STATISTICS: Barcelona had more of the possession in the first period with 60%, but both sides have had three attempts. Two of Barcelona's three have been on target, but just one of Real Madrid's three have tested Valdes. Two yellow cards apiece, meanwhile, with Adriano and Busquets in the book for the home side and Ramos and Bale for Real Madrid.
BENCH WATCH: It will not come as much of a surprise that both teams have a wealth of attacking options in reserve. On the bench for Barcelona are the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Pedro and Alex Song. Meanwhile, Real Madrid have options in the shape of Karim Benzema, Isco and Jese. It is a match that could be decided from the bench.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch for the second period. As it stands, Barcelona will move six points clear of Madrid at the top of the table. However, I have a feeling that we have not seen the last of the goals. No changes for either side at the interval as Barcelona get the half underway.
It appears that Di Maria is playing central for Real Madrid in the early stages of the second period, with Bale on the right and Ronaldo on the left. Just a reminder that Barcelona have only won one of their last five home games against their opponents this evening. Bright start from the away side as Bale wins a corner, but Valdes comes a long way to claim.
Ramos needs to be really careful here as he dives into a challenge with Iniesta, having already been booked. Khedira gets himself involved with Busquets moments later as the tempers continue to rise. It would not be a surprise to see a red card in the second period. Bright start to the second 45 minutes from Madrid.
Pepe has been criticised at times in recent seasons, but he has been very impressive this evening. The Portuguese uses all his experience as he wins a free kick from Alves down the right. Bale attempts to charge down a back-pass from Pique moments later, but Valdes clears. Not too much to report in terms of chances in the early stages of the second period.
Half-chance for Madrid as Khedira combines with Ronaldo before bursting into the Barcelona box. The German finds the head of Bale, but his effort is cleared by Pique, who was under pressure from Ronaldo. Messi has possession down the other end moments later before feeding Iniesta, but his powerful drive is blocked. The match is just starting to open up with 54 minutes on the clock.
CHANCE! First real chance of the second period as Varane allows a ball to bounce towards Neymar, the Brazilian hits it first time, but Lopez is on hand to make the save. A second goal would certainly make it hard for Real Madrid. Little over 30 minutes of normal time remaining in Barcelona. Will Carlo Ancelotti look to his bench in the next 10 or so minutes?
Real Madrid do indeed make a change with Illarramendi replacing Ramos, who had been booked. That is a surprise. Maybe it is a touch too early to be forcing the issue. Neither side is really in control of the match at the moment, with both struggling to force the issue in the final third.
CHANCE! Wonderful chance for Ronaldo to level as Modric takes possession in midfield before finding Ronaldo, but his powerful effort is saved by Valdes. The resulting corner presents Di Maria with a chance to test Valdes once more, but the Argentine's effort is straight into the arms of the Spanish stopper. The chances are starting to arrive.
Again it's good work from the away side as Modric combines with Carvajal before driving a low cross into the box, but Adriano is across to clear at the vital moment. Madrid make their second change moments later as Bale is replaced by Benzema. In truth, the Welshman has hardly featured in the second period. What a moment for Benzema to silence some of his doubters.
Real Madrid are the better side at the moment as they continue to force the issue in the final third, but they are finding it difficult to really test Valdes in the Barcelona goal. Messi attempts to break down the other end moments later, but Pepe fells the Argentine. Little over 25 minutes of football remaining in the Camp Nou.
Marcelo is the latest to enter the book as he fells Messi outside the Barcelona box. In fairness, the referee has performed well this evening. The resulting free kick is taken by Xavi, but Pepe is on hand to clear under pressure from Pique. Strange atmosphere inside the Camp Nou at the moment. Almost silent.
Real chance for Di Maria as the Argentine gains a yard on Adriano before bursting into the box, but his final touch just takes it into the arms of Valdes. Barcelona are really struggling to get out of their own half at the moment as Los Blancos continue to dominate. However, the two sides remain seperated by that Neymar strike after 19 minutes.
Half-chance for Benzema to level the scores as the Frenchman meets a cross from Marcelo, but his header was always moving high and wide of the crossbar. Barcelona make their first change of the evening moments later as Alexis Sanchez replaces Fabregas, who has struggled in the second period. The Chilean will provide the home side pace in the final third there is no question about that.
Penalty shout for the away side as Ronaldo goes down inside the box, but the referee is not interested. The attacker makes his feelings known as he cries out for a decision. I have certainly seen them given as Mascherano barged over the Portuguese. The pressure continues as the away side pass and probe outside the box.
CROSSBAR! Stunning effort from Benzema as he strikes one from outside the box, but it smashes off the crossbar. Inches away from levelling. One-way traffic.
Good spell for Barcelona in the last couple of moments with the home side starting to see more of the ball in the final third, but they are finding it difficult to break through this stern Madrid defence. A dangerous corner from Xavi arrives into the Madrid box, but it is played short before Pepe clears the danger.
Half-chance for the home side as Iniesta collects possession outside the box before attempting to find the top corner, but his effort was always moving wide of the post. Third and final change for Madrid moments later as Jese replaces Di Maria. Carlo Ancelotti has played all his cards with little over 10 minutes of football remaining in the Camp Nou.
Barcelona also look to their bench as Alex Song replaces Iniesta. Another half-chance arrives for the home side moments later, but Varane manages to clear following a period of pin-ball inside the box. Right, little over 10 minutes of football remaining. Can Madrid force an equaliser? They certainly deserve one.
GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Real Madrid (Sanchez)
Barcelona have their second of the evening as Sanchez turns Varane outside the box before chipping Lopez from just outside the box. Stunning finish from the Chilean. That could be enough to secure all three points.
Well, much for Madrid to ponder there is no question about that. Ronaldo enters the book moments later, seemingly pointing to the Barcelona box, where he was bundled over by Mascherano. The intensity has been raised in the last couple of moments.
Pepe attempts to take matters into his own hands for the away side as he collects possession outside the box before attempting to find the top corner, but his effort was always moving high and wide of the crossbar. Barcelona follow with a period of possession, as they prepare to move six points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the table.
CHANCE! Wonderful chance for the home side to make it 3-0 as Alves bursts into the Real Madrid box before attempting to find the bottom corner, but Alves is across to make the save. Moments later, Barcelona make their third and final change as Neymar is replaced by Pedro. Not a bad change to make!
Another half-chance for the away side as Khedira bursts into the box before attempting to curl an effort into the bottom corner, but Valdes is on hand to make the save. Wonderful noise inside the stadium as we approach the final couple of moments. Barcelona have not been at their best, but they are heading for a vital three points.
Madrid continue to force the issue in the Barcelona half, but it just has not happened for the away side in the final third this evening. The fourth official indicates that we will play an additional three minutes and we are indeed into the first of those.
GOAL! Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid (Jese)
Real Madrid open their tally in the first minute of stoppage time as Ronaldo finds Jese, whose low effort goes under the body of Valdes. Game on?!
Time is just running out for Real Madrid as Xavi and Pedro keep hold of the ball inside the Madrid half. Is it a case of too little too late? It seems that way as Alves wins a corner following a powerful strike on the edge of the box.
FULL-TIME: Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid
So there we have it. Barcelona come out on top in the first Clasico of the season with a 2-1 win over Real Madrid. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action and be sure to remain with us for Elche against Granada. Until then!