In about a month from now, the Nou Camp will be getting set for what is the most anticipated La Liga clash of the season so far. Spanish champions Barcelona face Real Madrid in the El Clasico, with the date set for the 18th of December.
The first Clasico of the 2019-20 campaign – originally meant to be played at the Camp Nou on October 26—was rescheduled following political protests in Catalonia. However, both clubs proposed and agreed to the new date.
As always, tension is set to rise in the build off to this fixture and there is no shortage of that this time around. The stakes might even be more than bragging rights this time around considering the proximity of both teams in the La Liga standings. Barcelona and Real Madrid are on par with a tally of 25 points but the Catalans top the La Liga with only a meagre +2 goal-difference lead over Real Madrid in second place.
Not just for both sides, but a host of others as well. Atletico Madrid and Sevilla occupy the third and fourth position respectively, on par with 24 points, while Real Sociedad lie in fifth with 23 points. Meaning only a grand “two” points separates the top five teams currently (Skysports).
If all things remain the same prior to the fixture, that game could decide who gets the bragging rights and the first real blow in taking a major lead at the top of the table. However, four La Liga games are sandwiched before the El Clasico showdown and a lot can still happen before then.
As always, no El Clasico showdown is not complete without one or two players from both sides taking a swipe at each other in the build-up to the game. This time around, It happens to be a battle of centre-backs as Ramos and Pique seem to be the ones squaring it closely with their comments.
Ramos initially claimed Los Blancos were at a disadvantage for the El Clasico because Barca had 24 hours more to rest.
Ramos spoke at a press conference prior to Spain’s UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier against Malta on Friday and said:
“In the end, the only ones that are at a disadvantage by this are us. It’s a pity that we didn’t play the Clasico when it was meant to be played (on Oct. 26) because both teams would have gone into that Saturday game having had the same (rest).
“There is still a possibility to change that (date) and we hope for our sake that this will be the case. If that cannot be done, then we will go to the game with the same mentality, which is to win it.”
Pique was quick to dismiss such claims and simply said there was no substance to his countryman’s claims.
“They will have more for the next game then…there is always some kind of complaint and the calendar is what it is,” Pique told Cadena Cope, as cited by Diario AS.
“The game had to have been played the day it had to be played. If it had been the other way around, Barça would have complained (for having less rest). The players are used to playing games two or three days apart. At Barça-Madrid, you look at everything with a magnifying glass.
Pique or Ramos: Who was right?
As per Skysports, Barcelona would play Leganes after the international break (23rd November) and still go on to play Borussia Dortmund (27th November), Atletico Madrid (1st December), Real Mallorca (7th December), Inter Milan (UCL – 10th December) and wrap it up with Real Sociedad on the 14th of December before facing Real Madrid in the El Clasico on the 18th.
As per the same source above, Real Madrid, in the same time frame, would face Real Sociedad (23rd November), PSG (UCL – 26th November), Alaves (30th November), Espanyol (7th December), Club Brugge (UCL – 11th December) and Valencia on the 15th of December before travelling to the Nou Camp to face Barca.
The 24 hour period Barcelona would get for rest in their fixture prior to the El Clasico is what Ramos termed an “advantage” for the Catalans.
But when you consider that fixture is against fifth-place Real Sociedad (only two points behind both top teams), it does make you question the validity of that “advantage”.
From a neutral standpoint, Barcelona have a much tougher run of fixtures with two Champions League games against top sides in Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund. Meaning Valverde would be left with a dilemma to keep the team strong enough to keep winning without overstretching any one player in the process.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, have a much kinder run of fixtures and look to be the ones with much of an advantage if you would call it. Also, the emergence of a number of youth players for Los Blancos has seen more competition spots with Rodrygo and Federico Valverde being the highlights of that narrative.
Actually, the El Clasico is that one game that can’t be predicted based on form, fixture list, or any outright circumstance. It is simply the biggest game in Europe that goes far beyond a simple rivalry. In the event that both teams go into the fixture with 25 points apiece, we can expect fireworks all over the pitch.
Since the departure of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, many have termed Barcelona as favourites going into any El Clasico fixture but with Real Madrid looking stronger and stronger lately and Eden Hazard getting to stride with the La Liga, the stage is set for lots of uncertainty on the 18th of December.
Till then, no club is at an “advantage”.