Plenty to play for in tonight's Clásico
Relatively speaking, this latest edition of El Clásico feels a bit like a non-event, stifled by the events of the past few days. For starters, on Friday last week, Iniesta announced that he would be leaving at the end of the season; three days after that, Barça were crowned LaLiga champions at Riazor; that was followed by Real Madrid booking their place in the Champions League final despite being given the once over by Bayern; and last but not least, Atlético outmuscled Arsenal aside to make the Europa League final. There have been too many events and too many emotions to deal with – all of which has left little time to focus on this Clásico - the result of which won’t make a jot of difference in the standings.
LaLiga done and dusted with two games to play
For several years now, the fixtures draw for LaLiga has been conditioned by El Clásico. It’s felt that it’s better not to have it too near the start of the season, where its prestige might be diminished – or too near the end when it would be meaningless if the league has already been settled. This time there are just two matchdays after El Clásico – in fact, three for both teams due to their Week 34 games being rescheduled because of the Copa del Rey final. Madrid have dropped right off the pace in LaLiga and only have second place to fight for. All of the excitement of the title race has gone – the winners have been decided, the Champions League places are all sewn up, the relegation battle is over and they only point of interest left is who will secure the final Europa League berths. So all in all, this Clásico is a little different from previous ones.
Iniesta's final Clásico
But however you look at it tonight’s meeting is still the Clásico and that is how both coaches are taking it, and both are expected to field their strongest sides. For Barça, who would rather not see Madrid with their 13th European crown, beating them for the second time this season and ending the campaign unbeaten is something to aim for. Meanwhile for Madrid, their objective is to bring Barça’s unbeaten run to an end and make sure the distance between them in the table doesn't grow further. Then there’s Iniesta, for whom this will be his last Clásico. There’s also the eternal duel between Messi and Cristiano. A rivalry which is lasted over a century, the balance of which is tipped only slightly in Madrid’s favour: 95 victories compared to Barça’s 93 and 49 draws. So all in all, yes, there are things at stake in this Clásico.
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