El Clasico is now a meeting between two flawed sides

It’s a fixture that has defined an entire era of European football. Of course, El Clasico, the meeting between Spain’s two biggest and most illustrious clubs has long been a fixture to watch out for, but the rivalry between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo made it a much-watch event for all football fans around the world.

Even with Ronaldo now gone, it remains the biggest fixture in the sport. But unlike in recent years this is now a meeting between two greatly flawed sides. That will be apparent this Sunday when Real Madrid welcome Barcelona to the Santiago Bernabeu for the second Clasico of the season.

These are two teams fighting for the Spanish title at the top of La Liga. Ordinarily, this would be a sign of strength, but this season has seen both Barca and Real Madrid suffer great inconsistencies. Until two weeks ago the latter looked to be in control of the race, holding a three-point advantage at the top of the table. One draw and one defeat later, now it’s Barcelona who hold a two-point lead heading into this weekend’s clash.

“It’s not just any other game,” Sergio Ramos explained in a recent interview. “Despite there just being three points at stake, as there is in every game, El Clasico is a game unlike any other. Beating Barcelona would bring us great joy.

“What’s more, it usually has a really positive impact on the group in terms of morale. Both teams know that and it’s something that we have to deal with as best we can to turn it into an incentive that drives you on to victory. Right from the start of the week, the whole experience is different. It brings a lot of media attention, but that’s also what makes this game so great, La Liga, the players… The feeling you get is one that comes from inside, it’s really hard to explain.”

Both teams appear to be in the midst of a generation transition, but the prize on offer remains the same as always. Sunday’s Clasico will have a real bearing on where the Spanish Liga title ends up this season. A Barcelona win, despite all their problems, would put them five points clear at the top. A Real Madrid win would put them back in control. There is a lot on the line, but this is a match defined not by its strength, as has previously been the case, but its weakness.

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