Spain’s El Clasico fixture between age-old rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid is undoubtedly the biggest game in world football, with the global spectacle to take centre stage once more on Saturday.
It makes sense that the world’s biggest game should have the two best players on the planet on opposite sides, with perennial rivals Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo set to renew their personal battle at Camp Nou.
Over the years there has been a difference in ideology between both teams and their star players. Barcelona’s Més que un club moniker, More than a Club, has acted as an ideology for the style of football the Blaugrana have played, while also defining the team’s Catalan identity and commitment to their youth system. On the contrary, Madrid’s Galacticos ideal of the modern age has typified the continual lavish expenditure on the world’s most high-profile players and the relative link to popular fan culture.
The La Liga rivals’ poster boys have also embodied their respective sides’ ideologies. Messi is a holier-than-thou team player with God-given talent, talismanic through action, inspirational, and committed to the collective. Ronaldo is a product of painstaking repetition and fortitude; the ultimate athlete with physical prowess, and a man that has reaped the dividends of looking out for “number one”.
Realistically, this Saturday’s game will most likely be decided at the feet of one of these mercurial talents. If history is anything to go by, Messi and Barcelona should come up trumps. The Argentina international is the king of the Clasico and can boast scoring the most goals in the illustrious fixture’s long history.
Messi has netted 21 goals against Real Madrid for the Catalan giants (in 32 games), with Alfredo Di Stefano’s 18 strikes for the capital city outfit in second place. Ronaldo, by contrast, has scored 16 times against Barcelona in all competitions (in 25 games).
Looking at a more recent portrayal of the Clasico fixture, however, suggests that the Portuguese has overcome a mental block to rise to the occasion. While Messi may well have been the deciding factor in meetings between these sides in the early 2010s, the opposite has been true of late. Ronaldo has scored four goals in the last five meetings between the teams, while his Barcelona nemesis has not netted in the last five Clasico fixtures against Madrid.
True to their respective overarching styles of play, Messi has provided more from a team perspective than his rival in Clasico games. The Barcelona star has offered up 13 assists in games against Madrid, while Ronaldo has only laid on a solitary goal for a team-mate against the staunch Catalan side.
Interestingly, both players have a better goalscoring record away from home against the other Clasico side, than in front of their own supporters. Although Messi has been in red-hot personal form of late, Barcelona enter Saturday’s game having drawn their last two league games and six points adrift of an undefeated Madrid at the La Liga summit. It feels like a potentially defining moment in the 2016-17 season and a game that could be remembered for individual brilliance for years to come.
But what will it be: Messi ending his goal drought to again reconfirm his place as the best footballer of all time, or Ronaldo drilling home Madrid’s newfound dominance and propelling the capital city side to potential La Liga title success?
Watch Barcelona vs Real Madrid Live Online
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