Barcelona may currently be sitting pretty at the summit of La Liga, but neither them nor their Madrid rivals Real are exactly at the peak of their powers at the moment. With Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Valencia all excelling this season, the power couple of Real and Barca are somewhat struggling to hold on to their dominance.
Neither side are nailed on for the Champions League either. With Bayern Munich refinding form and the new Middle East-backed superpowers of PSG and Manchester City strutting confidently about Europe, the Spanish duo may need to find an extra gear pretty soon. But thoughts of end-of-season silverware take a back seat this weekend as El Clasico rears its beautiful yet ugly head once. The most high profile derby in world football is back at Midday on Saturday December 23rd. And once more, it’ll be a fierce, fierce match-up.
Real Madrid have home advantage and go into the game as slight odds against favourites. You can get better than 2/1 on the visitors, despite them holding an eleven point lead over Zinedine Zidane’s men. But points tallies mean little in clashes like this. We’re excited about the first Clasico of the season, but for the lively incidents as much as the stellar football. Only we all know how much these ties can kick off, don’t we?
Here’s our top five bust-ups from El Clasico history…
Bad Day at the Office for Sergio Ramos
Now, of course, we were always going to feature Real’s fiery centre back Sergio Ramos in this list, weren’t we? With 19 league red cards and 24 in total for Los Blancos, Ramos is the most sent off player in La Liga history. And as a Real boy through and through, nothing gets his blood up quite like a game against Barcelona.
Perhaps the most infamous of his many, many reds came in November 2010. A scythe on David Villa saw him booked on 70 minutes. Real were losing heavily and by injury time, the score was 5-0. Ramos was filled with rage and Messi’s fancy footwork tipped him over the edge. Another hack brought another yellow and he was off. But not before he decided to go around slapping half the opposition.
He’d go on to be sent off a further four times against Barca in the next seven years. So don’t be surprised to see Ramos stomp off down the tunnel before everyone else on Saturday…
A Classic Row
One from the vaults here as we see two absolute club legends facing off against each other. Real’s classy but gritty old defender Fernando Hierro and Barcelona and Brazil’s maestro Rivaldo get into it a little back in 2001, after a 50/50 upset both players.
The clash is textbook continental. A nothing challenge sees some serious histrionics, some shouting, a few faux headbutts and, of course, plenty of girly slaps. And plenty of ‘he ain’t even worth it!’ action from interfering teammates.
One in the Eye for Tito Vilanova
A nasty one, this. And perhaps the only clash in this list in which the aggressor has gone on to show real contrition for his actions. Immediately after poking Barca coach Tito Vilanova in the eye following their 2011 3-2 Spanish Super Cup defeat, Real boss Jose Mourinho was unrepentant. But a year later, he apologised for the ocular digit jab.
‘I should not have done what I did, obviously not. The person who messed up there was me,’ the ex and future Chelsea man said in 2012. Vilanova would go on to lose his battle with throat cancer just two years later and his old Bernabeu foe would lead the tributes.
‘Tito Vilanova’s passing is a sad day for football, for Barcelona and most importantly for his family and friends,’ Mourinho said. A humbling end to an angry but mostly respectful rivalry.
Cristiano Ronaldo Shoves Pep and Kicks Off Mass Handbags
Chasing the game at two nil down, Real need to score. And quick. The ball goes out of play and Cristiano Ronaldo goes to retrieve it from Barca gaffer Pep Guardiola. Pep cheekily flicks the ball away from Ronaldo and the Real man gives him a little push out of frustration. Cue ‘scenes’.
Players from both sides pile in to remonstrate and it all gets very heated, very quickly. Everyone squares up to everyone else and the merest incident would have be liable to set off an enormous brawl. Things didn’t quite get that bad, but Ronaldo got his marching orders and the hatred was reaffirmed.
Ronaldo Loses It Again… With His Own Teammates This Time
This isn’t exactly the most dramatic bust-up you’ll ever seen during a Barca/Real showdown. But we thought we’d mix it up a little for our final pick and go for a little mutiny on the bounty.
This El Clasico was from the tail end of last season and saw the game poised at 2-2, deep into injury time. A Barcelona counter attack from Sergi Roberto could have been stopped with a cynical yellow card-worthy foul. But both Marcelo and Luka Modric refused to kick their opponent. The move continued and a goal was scored (by Lionel Messi, naturally).
Cue some serious beef…
Real captain Cristiano Ronaldo was not happy. And you can see his point. The Portuguese man’s game is about skill, pace and power. But it’s also about being smart. The foul was necessary. And he let his teammates know it. Most of the drama happened in the changing rooms, but many have surmised that this incident caused enough arguments to make Ronaldo want to leave. Some nine months on he remains in Madrid, but those rumours of him leaving never really go away.
Red cards, in-fighting, eye pokes… Who knows how the rivalry will bubble over this weekend? But one thing’s for certain, it’ll be anything but polite. Make sure you head down to your local Rileys and watch all the action unfold from 12pm on Saturday afternoon.