Barcelona, Real Madrid prepare for first of four meetings in three weeks

AlvesRonaldo

By CALEB SONNELAND

One of the most enticing soccer rivalries in the world revs up Saturday as Lionel Messi and Barcelona travel to the Bernabeu to take on Real Madrid in a key league match-up that is also part of a unique stretch of match-ups between the arch-rivals.

Known as 'El Clasico', Barcelona-Real Madrid is a fixture most fans have marked down as a must-watch game, but the two sides will now meet four times in the span of just under a month and in three competitions.  Predicting one matchup is tough in itself, but with the two sides set to clash four times in that amount of time, it becomes an even taller order.  

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola has labeled the stretch of matches "a gift" for soccer fans everywhere, and it's hard to say otherwise.

Just four days after Saturday's match, the two Spanish giants meet in Valencia CF's La Mestalla for the Copa del Rey, and toward the tail end of the month, they play the first of two legs in their Champions League semifinal.

Real Madrid captain, Iker Casillas, insists that tomorrow's match is hugely important, despite the fact that Barcelona look to be slipping away in La Liga as Pep Guardiola & Co. are now eight points clear at the top.

Both managers have proved to be masterful tacticians, and you can bet that Mourinho will be looking to put some of those lessons learned from their shellacking earlier in the season to good use.  Guardiola is relishing the idea of a four-peat El Clasico and will have the Catalans gunning for four wins over their heated rivals.

Mental and physical fatigue will no doubt be factors down the road, and the starting lineup for Saturday's game could well be strikingly different from the one that will take the field for the second leg of the Champions League semifinal on May 3rd.  

Karim Benzema will be a welcome addition for Real Madrid as the French striker has been on point lately and scored more goals in March (7) than any other player in Europe's top five leagues.  Add Emmanuel Adebayor and a fit Gonzalo Higuain to the mix, and Madrid have all their offensive guns ready. Even Kaka is healthy if that says anything. 

Barcelona will be without the recently-injured striker, Bojan, and Carlos Puyol is still to recover from his injury.  However, the weapons that Guardiola still has available to him speak for themselves and should at least equal any threat posed by the Madrid giants. 

What happens tomorrow is anyone's guess, but there should be fireworks at the Bernabeu, as there were at the Camp Nou back in November. Huge amounts of pressure will be placed on both clubs, and the headlines in the Spanish media during this three-week, four-game stint will be rife with action.

How do you see this stretch of four matches playing out? Do you think Barcelona will win more of the match-ups, or do you think Real Madrid will surprise the La Liga leaders?

Share your thoughts below.

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21 Responses to Barcelona, Real Madrid prepare for first of four meetings in three weeks

  1. Phil says:

    I hope Barca sweeps all fixtures and it sends RM into a “crisis” that leads to Mourinho and Ronaldo both heading back to England where they belong, Kaka back to Italy, where he belongs, Benzema to France, where he belongs, and ownership to hell, where they belong!.

  2. Eurosnob says:

    Four Real-Barca games in less than a month! I wonder if Mourinho gets fired if Barcelona somehow manages to win all four games in addition to their 5-0 win at Camp Nou?

  3. MadKingGeorge says:

    First match will be a draw

    2nd match in the copa del ray- barca wins

    Madrid will win the aggr on the champions league

  4. golfstrom says:

    The #1 tactical feature to watch out for is where Ronaldo lines up vis a vis Dani Alves and how it plays out over the 4 games. Alves plays so high up, and obviously Ronaldo prefers to play on the left, so something has to give. Mourinho has other options like Di Maria (a winger who tracks back), Marcelo, or even a purely defensive option like Arbeloa, but those all push Ronaldo to his un-preferred side.

    There is also a lot of debate on how many holding mids Mo should use…there is a thought that Madrid need three holders to deal w/ the Busquets-Xavi-Iniesta triangle. Last clasico Ozil was tracking Xavi, who simply freed himself by taking a more advanced position.

    p.s. all of this basically stolen from zonalmarking articles (see SBI’s recommended blogs)

  5. Jeremy says:

    I, as an unbiased supporter of just soccer in general, will be rooting for Real Madrid so that this will actually be a rivalry again. No matter how much you may like Barcelona and hate Real, it’s no fun to watch if the villain isn’t a genuine threat to take home the prize. Even if Madrid loses the first clasico but wins the Copa, the Champions League matches will be INSANE.

    One sided “rivalries” are boring, despite what history they have.

  6. Tyrone says:

    I don’t find it at all boring to watch Messi & Co. beat up on RM. To each his own though.

  7. Don Pelayo says:

    As a biased Madrid fan, I expect Madrid to win at least 3 out of the four matches and advance to the CL final. The arrogant shall be humbled. The Catalans shall be made dumb. ¡VAMOS MADRID! ¡AL FINAL!!!

  8. vivavilla says:

    what time and what channel for the game this Saturday?

  9. Eurosnob says:

    Wow, a madridista is proclaiming that “arrogant shall be humbled.” Did you foreget who coaches Real? Self-proclained “special one,” Mourinho. Did you foreget who is Real’s best player? The “humble” Christiano Ronaldo. I am not even mentioning the guy at the very top of Real orgnization.

  10. LiquidYogi says:

    You must like the crappiest television shows where the good guys win at every conceivable moment and are the master of all situations. BORING.

  11. BCC says:

    Real Madrid win all four games, the Mourinho legend grows, and the club maintains its status atop the world . . .

  12. BCC says:

    4 PM ET on GolTV and ESPN3.

  13. bryan says:

    MADRID!

  14. bryan says:

    and ESPN Deportes

  15. Emerald_City_Jason says:

    Too bad it coincides with the first day of the NBA playoffs.

  16. curmudgeon says:

    The problem for Barca is missing *two* starting defenders. Their options at LB are a serious drop-off for Eric Abidal, while their options to replace Carles Puyol at centerback involve either Busquets (who has no speed), Mascherano (who has no height/physical presence) or Milito (who is a pale shadow of his former self). And Mascherano won’t be available for the Liga match this weekend — suspended for card accumulation. And Madrid is playing much better football now than they were in November. Madrid must be licking their chops at running at Barca’s central defense.

    I hope Barca wins, but it’ll be very very hard.

  17. Jose says:

    I think Barca has a psychological advantage over Madrid. I feel that if Madrid does not score within the first 20 miniutes of the match the wheels will fall off. Also, I found a place to get all of the highlights of Barcelona. They have the Madrid highlights as well. From all the matches this season. link to youtube.com Visca Barca!

  18. Curtis says:

    I must say I agree. I’m not sure about the first match but I think Real is gonna pull an upset and take the Champions league

  19. Jay says:

    Its not boring to watch Barca dominate a team like this comes around once in a great while if you can’t enjoy one of the greatest teams in recent memory then fair enough. However much like I still remember Jordan’s Bulls I know I will be talking about this Barca squad for a long time. Its a shame several Ives readers can’t really understand how rare it is for a team to be this dominant it seems every time Barca comes up on this website the inevitable boring comments come out. Besides with the special one on the other side there is no way the next 4 games will be boring.

  20. John in FL says:

    is he not a special coach? 2 CL titles with 2 different teams (from 2 dif countries), 2 trebles with 2 different teams (from 2 dif countirs), the first coach in history to take 3 different team to the CL semi finals ( Van Gal become the second the day after Mou did it).
    And I’m not mentioning all the domestic leagues and other cups he won in England and Italy here.

    As a coach he is indeed a special one.

  21. Eurosnob says:

    I am not suggesting that Mourinho is incompetent, but you can’t seriously dispute that he is arrogant. In case you are not aware, he was the first one who started to call himself “special one” at one of his narcissistic press conferences- thus, it is accurate to call it “self-proclaimed.” And as for his two Champions league titles, Alex Ferguson and Carlo Ancellotti also have two. And if you look at the predecessor tournament, the champions cup, Bob Paisley won it 3 times. Brian Clough, Ernest Hapel, Arrigo Sacchi, Ottmar Hitzfelt, Luis Carniglia, Vincente Del Bosque, Helenio Herrera, Jose Villalonga Llorente also won it two times.