El Clasico: Barcelona vs Real Madrid expected to be a close contest
Barcelona's Andres Iniesta and Real Madrid's Gareth Bale insist tonight's battle will be fought hard and won't be anywhere close to the one-sided encounter that Barca won 4-0 last time around
Madrid: Barcelona will honour legendary former player and coach Johan Cruyff as they look to inflict more misery upon eternal rivals Real Madrid in the Clasico tonight.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi
The most watched game in world football is Barca’s first since Cruyff passed away at the age of 68 after battling with cancer last week.
Tribute to Cruyff
A pre-match display involving over 90,000 fans will read ‘thank you Johan’ with the same message carried on the Barca players’ shirts.
Real's Cristiano Ronaldo
"In what is a special match, it is without doubt extra motivation for us to try and win the game," said Barca captain Andres Iniesta.
Indeed, the emotion surrounding the occasion supersedes its importance in the title race in La Liga with Barca 10 points clear of third-placed Madrid with eight games remaining. A 4-0 rout of Real when they met in November puts Barca in command to retain the title.
Manager Zidane’s first Clasico
However, with Madrid now under new management since Zinedine Zidane replaced Rafael Benitez in January and with the front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema fit and in scoring form, Iniesta expects a much tougher task today.
"These games are different, it doesn’t matter how the teams are playing before because we all like to beat your biggest rivals. We expect a difficult, close game which will be decided by small details. We have all the respect in the world for the team we will face because they deserve it," added the Spanish international.
Bale, well rested following a two-week international break, is confident Madrid can drag themselves back into the title race if they can snap Barca’s 39-game unbeaten run.
Bale said: "They are playing very well, so we have to take the game to them, attack them and exploit their weaknesses. We have a plan and I’m very confident we can win."
Spanish League: Barcelona vs Real Madrid
Sony ESPN & Sony Six 23:55
EL Clasico in numbers
The overall number of El Clasicos played in history
Real Madrid’s head-to-head lead over Barcelona in Clasicos
The highest margin by which Barcelona have beaten Real, in 1913
The highest margin by which Real have beaten Barca, in 1943
Total goals Real have scored in Clasicos; 15 more than Barca
The record number of goals Lionel Messi has scored in 30 Clasicos
The number of goals Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in 23 Clasicos