The mother of all football rivalries, El Clasico, takes place today at the magnificent Camp Nou in Barcelona. It is a rivalry game between two of the biggest clubs in world football and unarguably the two biggest clubs in Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid. The term ‘El Clasico’ was originally used to refer to just games between these two in the Spanish league, but recently the term has been generalised and tends to include every single match between the two clubs: UEFA Champions League, Copa del Rey, etc.
It is also one of the most viewed sporting events in the world. The most recent El Clasico, in April 2016, aired in more than 90 countries around the world with over 400 million viewers. The Clasico is perhaps the purest form of a football match with a political edge. In Spain, there is real bad blood between the two cities, Barcelona and Madrid, thanks to former leader of the country General Franco’s treatment of Catalonia.
To this day, some in the region campaign for independence from the rest of the nation, meaning every time these clubs lock horns it is a feisty encounter. On social media, they are the two most followed sports teams in the world and according to Forbes, these are two of the top three most valuable sports clubs in the world, only the Dallas Cowboys are ahead of them. After Barcelona and Madrid, the next club on the list is Manchester United at $3.3 billion. When it comes to silverware, the two clubs are on top of the world. In terms of La Liga and the European Cup, Real Madrid have 32 and 11 wins respectively, both competition records, while Barcelona have 24 and five.
On the pitch, traditionally, the two clubs represent different ideologies. Barcelona have become known for religiously sticking to one style of football, breeding talent after talent from their youth academy, while Real believe in signing the very best players for the highest transfer fees. The individual rivalry between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo also follows that pattern, with Ronaldo moving to Madrid for a previous world-record $90million and Messi working his way up through the system at the Camp Nou.
Matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid are always hugely significant, regardless of the underpinning circumstances heading into the game. But today’s game at the Camp Nou feels particularly pertinent, even in the anthology of iconic contests we’ve witnessed between the two.
Barcelona head into this game on the back of two consecutive draws and six points behind Real and the Madrid team have a huge opportunity to make a major statement in the title race with a win. Zinedine Zidane’s side have picked up 6 straight victories, though their overall gameplay may not be pretty, they have scored 20 goals in those victories. Cristiano Ronaldo is back to his goal scoring best after a poor start to the season, he has scored 8 goals in the last 4 matches which include 2 hat-tricks.
Real will be without some very key players with Welsh wing wizard, Gareth Bale, German schemer, Toni Kroos and French defender, Raphael Varane all out of today’s match, while for Barca, there are plenty of problems in defence as Gerard Pique is a major doubt after the knock he picked up during the 1-1 draw at Sociedad. He is joined by Jordi Alba, Samuel Umtiti and Jeremy Mathieu with fitness issues. Andres Iniesta has recovered from an injury that kept him out since the start of the season and should play some part in today’s game. The last time these two sides met at the Camp Nou, Real came from behind to snatch a 2-1 victory and a repeat of that will be huge for Los Blancos today.
Before ‘El Clasico’ kicks off this evening in Spain, we would have already witnessed ‘el cashico’ in England. This term was recently coined for games between Chelsea and Manchester City, due to the heavy influx of cash, which has influenced and improved the fortunes of both clubs and also elevated them to the status of top teams in Europe.
This fixture will pit two of the most tactically astute managers in European football, Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte, against each other in what could give an early indication towards the destination of the Premier League title.
Chelsea have won their last seven matches in the League, conceding just one goal in that span and are currently one-point clear of Manchester City ahead of today’s early kick-off. The Citizens’ form have been patchy recently, with only two clean sheets this season and will need to improve if they are to become the first team to stop Chelsea from winning since September. Pep Guardiola’s side have won five of the last six home meetings against Chelsea but Conte, who was one of the managers Guardiola was most concerned about upon his Premier League switch, could prove to be a tough nut to crack for the Spaniard today.
Both teams are separated by just 1 point at the top of the league table after they both won their respective matches last weekend. The Captains of both clubs, Vincent Kompany and John Terry, will be out of this clash, the former with an ankle injury and the latter with a muscle injury he picked up before the Spurs game. Antonio Conte’s side has been unchanged for the last six games and we shouldn’t expect any now, while for Guardiola, there have been whispers that Yaya Toure will be dropped for Ilkay Gundogan. This should be a very tactical affair as the main priority for both coaches will be avoiding defeat because a draw will not do any damage to their title ambitions at the moment.
Tomorrow in Italy, the Derby della Capitale takes centre stage as Lazio hosts Roma in the country’s fiercest inter-city derby. Roma are second on the table, four points behind leaders Juventus and just a point above their fourth-placed rivals. The last time these two teams met Roma ran out 4-1 winners, handing Lazio their biggest defeat in the derby since 2002. Tomorrow’s game will not only present a chance for Lazio to avenge that defeat, they will also get to overtake Roma on the log with a victory after weeks of chasing them.
Mohamed Salah will miss the game as the Roma winger has ankle ligament damage. The Egyptian international was injured in training on Wednesday, by returning defender Thomas Vermaelen, while Stephan El Shaarawy is also not at full fitness, which means that Luciano Spalletti could give a chance to Juan Iturbe. Meanwhile Lazio manager, Simone Inzaghi seems not to have any injury worry as Federico Marchetti is working hard to return to first team action. Lazio are on a nine-game unbeaten run, while Roma have lost just once in their last eight league games and with both teams doing so well, one would expect the Olimpico to be packing 70,000 fans again.
Although, the protests at the Plexiglass barriers dividing the ends behind the goals continue, some of Lazio’s ultras have vowed to return. Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi, all Romanistas and Romans, personally attended a get-together of Roma’s hardcore this week to ask that they come back and fill the Curva Sud. I may not be able to out rightly predict how this derby will go, but I will put my money on both teams finding the net in this fixture. You can log on to www.nairabet.com to see the array of possible outcomes to bet on for this fixture.
Last weekend twenty-one of the twenty-five betting tips I gave came out correctly and I’m sure some of you were able to cash out from them. I will be giving out another twenty-five game betting tip, which can be combined any way you like on www.nairabet.com to make more money for yourself.
Stoke City v Burnley (double chance for Stoke)
Tottenham v Swansea (Tottenham win)
Bournemouth v Liverpool (Liverpool win)
Dortmund v Monchengladbach (Dortmund win)
Bayer Leverkusen v Freiburg (Bayer win)
RB Leipzig v Schalke (Double chance for Leipzig)
Atletico Madrid v Espanyol (Atletico win)
Athletic Bilbao v Eibar (Double chance for Athletic)
Barcelona v Real Madrid (Both teams to score)
SERIE A (Italy)
Juventus v Atalanta (Juventus win)
AC Milan v Crotone (Milan win)
Fiorntina v Palermo (Fiorentina win)
LIGUE 1 (France)
Montpellier v PSG (Double chance for PSG)
Monaco v Bastia (Monaco win)
Metz v Lyon (Double chance for Lyon)
Roda v PSV (PSV win)
Ajax v Groningen (Ajax win)
Feyenoord v Sparta (Feyenoord win)
PRIMEIRA LIGA (Portugal)
Sporting v Setubal (Sporting win)
Porto v Braga (Porto win)
Rio Ave v Tondela (Double chance for Rio)
JUPILER LEAGUE (Belgium)
Club Brugge v Oostende (Brugge win)
Westerlo v Gent (Gent win)
Zulte Waregem v Waasland Beveren (Zulte win)
Motherwell v Celtic (Celtic win)