Spain’s two most powerful clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona lock horns on Saturday for the first of four titanic confrontations in 18 days that will decide the success of each side’s season.
The arch rivals clash in three competitions: in La Liga on Saturday, in the final of the King’s Cup next Wednesday and in the Champions League semi-finals at Madrid’s home the Bernabeu on March 27 and at the Nou Camp on May 3.
Saturday’s league game at the Bernabeu is, in some ways, the least significant of the four as leaders Barca have an eight-point advantage over Real with seven matches left. Pep Guardiola’s side could lose and still coast to a third consecutive league title.
However, Saturday’s result will also be hugely significant in psychological terms for fans and players for the following three matches.
Since Guardiola took the helm in 2008, Barca have proven invincible in the “clasicos”, chalking up five consecutive victories.The last of those was a crushing 5-0 rout at the Nou Camp in November, which ended Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten start as Real coach. Guardiola has already warned against complacency, urging his players to go for the win to effectively wrap-up the league title. "It’s a unique opportunity to strike a decisive blow," he said after last weekend’s win over Almeria.