The first Clásico of the 2021/22 season has the Camp Nou as its stage. Let’s take a look at developments in the rival camp ahead of the 4.15pm CEST kick-off on Sunday.
Originally founded in 1902, curiously by two Catalan brothers, Madrid FC became Real (‘Royal’) Madrid when it was granted the title by King Alfonso XIII in 1920. The club has gone on to win more European Cup/Champions League titles than any other (13), and has also won La Liga a record 34 times, although Barça, now with 26, are rapidly closing the gap.
Madrid have always worn an all-white strip. The reason is simple. In the early days of football, everyone wore white and teams were told apart by wearing colored sashes. As football grew more serious, teams started to wear different colored shirts instead, but Madrid decided to carry on wearing white.
Although nowadays it would be unthinkable for Barça to wear their biggest rival’s colors, the club has actually worn white on several occasions in the past. Before the spectacular away kit designs of today, it was once normal practice for visiting teams to wear white in the case of a color clash. The last time Barça did so was against Ipswich Town on March 7, 1979.
Head to head
The rivalry between Barça and Real Madrid needs no introduction. They don’t call it El Clásico for nothing. However, that name is actually only a recent phenomenon. The term was inherited from South America, where it was used to describe such games as Boca v River and Nacional v Peñaroland has only been used in reference to this game for the last twenty years or so.
There are many reasons why it has gained such status. The two teams are giants in their own league, in a way perhaps only comparable to Celtic and Rangers in western Europe, so the game typically has a huge bearing on the final outcome of La Liga.
It has the added ingredient of the traditional social and political rivalry between the two cities, and what’s more, it tends to bring together some of the very biggest names in the football world.
Although Real Madrid traditionally had the historical upper hand, Barça’s brilliant performances since the turn of the century meant they finally tied the all-time lead in 2019. However, three wins since then mean Real Madrid now lead 100-97. However, if including semi-official and friendly games, Barça actually lead 115-111.
And there is little doubt that it’s the Catalans who have had the upper hand in recent years. Before Madrid’s recent run of three consecutive wins, Barça had won 13, drawn five and lost just four of 22 meetings.
Last five meetings
10/04/21 (LEAGUE) Real Madrid 2-1 Barca
24/10/20 (LEAGUE) Barça 1-3 Real Madrid
01/03/20 (LEAGUE) Real Madrid 2-0 Barca
18/12/19 (LIGA) Barça 0-0 Real Madrid
02/03/19 (LIGA) Real Madrid 0-1 Barca
Real Madrid got off to a very strong start, only dropping two points in their first six games, a 3-3 draw at Levante, including putting five goals past Celta and six past Mallorca.
But they have slipped somewhat in their last two games, a 0-0 draw at home to Villarreal and a 2-1 loss at Espanyol, meaning they have surrendered the top spot in the table to Real Sociedad.
They go into this game two points ahead of Barça, with the same number of games played.
In the Champions League, they started with a 1-0 win at Inter Milan but then suffered one of the biggest shocks in tournament history when Sheriff Tiraspol won 2-1 at the Bernabéu. On Tuesday they went some way to making up for that loss with a solid 5-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Most capped internationals: Luka Modrić (Croatia, 144), Eden Hazard (Belgium, 115), Toni Kroos (Germany, 106), Gareth Bale (Wales, 99), Karim Benzema (France, 92), David Alaba (Austria, 90), Thibaut Courtois (Belgium, 93), Marcelo (Brazil, 58), Casemiro (Brazil, 58), Isco (Spain, 38), Federico Valverde (Uruguay, 35), Dani Carvajal (Spain, 25), Marco Asensio (Spain, 25)
Top scorers 2021/22 (all competitions): Karim Benzema (11), Vinicius Junior (7), Marco Asensio (3), Rodrygo (2)
Injuries: Dani Ceballos (ankle), Gareth Bale (knee), Luka Jovic (doubtful)
One of the most heralded managers of all time, Carlo Ancelotti was manager of Real Madrid from 2013 to 2015, guiding them to the Champions League victory in 2014 (adding to his two previous victories with AC Milan). However, he was relieved of his duties following a disappointing 2015 season.
Since then he has been at Bayern Munich, Napoli and Everton. Following Zinedine Zidane’s resignation at the end of last season, he accepted the offer to return to the Bernabéu this season. Should Real Madrid win the league, he’d become the first manager to do so in all of Europe’s big five leagues (having won in Italy with Milan, England with Chelsea, France with PSG and Germany with Bayern).