El Clasico: Barcelona could finally go top of La Liga with a win over Los Blancos

With under-pressure Atletico Madrid not playing until Sunday, Barcelona can go top of the La Liga with a win over their fiercest rivals this weekend, as they continue to chase a 27th league title.

A huge collective sigh of relief echoed around Catalonia on Sunday following Barcelona's clash with Real Valladolid.

Safe in the knowledge that title rivals Atletico had lost to Sevilla, Ronald Koeman's men won 1-0 at Camp Nou to go within a point of Diego Simeone's side, but all was not as simple as it seems.

In - what was in large spells - a frustrating evening for Blaugrana, a golden opportunity appeared to have been squandered as the game remained goalless for all of 89 minutes, edging closer to the beckoning final whistle - before an emphatic late winner momentarily stopped Spanish football in its tracks.

For many eventual champions, a number of season-defining moments stand out to players and fans alike amongst the euphoria of the trophy lift, and Ousmane Dembele's 89th-minute winner may well be just that to Barcelona come May.

As this emphatic season draws closer towards its enthralling conclusion, the next fixture awaiting Messi and his men is a spectacular El Clasico showdown at the Santiago Bernabeu against their oldest enemy - and as tends to be the case, the stakes are monumentally high.

Hot on the heels of the top two, a victory for Zinedine Zidane's side over Eibar kept them just two points behind Barcelona and three away from the under-pressure league leaders, and Los Blancos would love nothing more than to bask in the glory of simultaneously spoiling the party for their two fiercest foes.

With this in mind however, Ronald Koeman's side will arrive in the Spanish capital as the favourites for the fixture - with their 16-game unbeaten streak continuing their momentary reign as Europe's most in-form team and Real's Champions League quarter-final showdown with Liverpool providing somewhat of an added distraction to Los Blancos.

One of, if not the most anticipated derby in football, the Clasico will produce goals, drama, tension, cards and invaluable bragging rights, and this encounter may well possess the adage of deciding the fate of the La Liga title.

Tip of the fixture

In a match steeped in history and acclaim, both sides will be determined to overcome their fiercest rivals and further immortalise themselves in La Liga greatness.

With the difficult task of two legs against a determined Jurgen Klopp side and the omission of resolute centre-backs in Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane hindering Madrid greatly, a crucial opportunity presents itself to Blaugrana on Saturday.

Additionally, a tough away tie for Atletico Madrid at Real Betis on Sunday is highly unlikely to be a run-of-the-mill victory for Los Culchoneros, who have squandered a 10-point lead since the turn of the new year.

If Barcelona are to end the season on a high, have any hope of keeping Lionel Messi and kickstart a successful regime under new club president, Joan Laporta, it's now or never for the Nou Camp outfit.

Paddy Power are offering 12/1 odds for Blaugrana to triumph 3-1 in the Spanish capital.

Lionel Messi has made an untouchable start to 2021, dominating the La Liga golden boot race with 23 goals to his name already this season.

The illustrious Argentine is 7/2 to score two or more goals in the game.

In what is set to be a cagey affair, Barcelona's class is likely to truly shine through once the initial sparks have flown and intense nerves have been settled.

A draw at half-time and Barcelona to win the second half is 9/2.

Stat attack

With a record-breaking 26 goals to his name in the fixture, Lionel Messi is the highest-scoring player in the history of La Liga, bettering three legendary Real forwards below him in Cristiano Ronaldo (18), Alfredo di Stefano (16) and Raul (15).

Ronald Koeman's side have failed to win on the last three times of asking against Los Blancos, losing twice and drawing once whilst conceding five goals and managing to score just one.

Since the fixture began, the two have met 224 times - Real Madrid (90) boast more wins in that time than Barcelona (86) and the two sides have drawn 48 times, leaving them with a win percentage of 40% and Barca on 38%.

Goalscoring is also edged by Los Blancos by just six goals - of the 720 goals scored in the tie, Real have scored 363 in contrast with the 357 scored by Ronald Koeman's men.

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In the first meeting between the two sides in the 1925/26 Copa del Rey season, Barcelona emerged 5-1 victors, winning the tie 8-1 on aggregate.

Blaugrana's biggest win over Real Madrid came in the 1950/51 La Liga season where they won 7-2, amazingly their biggest defeat to the Bernabeu giants was 11-1 when they were thrashed in a 1943 Copa del Rey encounter.

The Catolonian outfit have won six of their last 10 games at the Santiago Bernabeu across all competitions, but have won just 27 times in 110 meetings in the Spanish capital - incomparable to Real's 61 victories.

Memorable matches

Barcelona 5-1 Real Madrid

La Liga

October 28, 2018

Luis Suarez hat-trick and goals from Philippe Coutinho and Arturo Vidal fired Barcelona to the top of the La Liga table as they decimated a helpless Real Madrid at Camp Nou, as things went from bad to worse for Julen Lopetegui.

As Lionel Messi watched on from the stands, Barcelona proved their potency without the Argentine as Coutinho gave the hosts the lead after 11 minutes, coolly converting Jordi Alba's testing cutback.

Doubling the lead on the half-hour mark, Suarez scored his first of three from the penalty spot as Barcelona exited the pitch two goals to the good at the half-time break.

Despite Marcelo halving the deficit five minutes into the second half, the visitors failed to build on this foothold as a flurry of late goals from the Catalonian side ensured an impressive victory.

A looping header from Suarez re-extended Barcelona's lead to two, completing his hat-trick eight minutes later allowing Vidal to grab the fifth in what is undoubtedly going to be a memorable match in the minds of Barca supporters for years to come.

Real Madrid 0-4 Barcelona

La Liga

November 21, 2015

No Messi again? No problem.

Andres Iniesta, Neymar and Luis Suarez dazzled as Barcelona beat 10-man Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu to move six points clear at the top of La Liga.

A bright, attacking start from the visitors was rewarded after 11 minutes when Luiz Suarez broke the deadlock with a well-hit strike from just inside Keylor Navas' 18-yard box.

Determined to double their lead, Barcelona did just that on the stroke of half-time through the brilliant Brazilian, Neymar who hit a composed side-footed finish past the flailing Navas to double Blaugrana's lead.

The second half was very much business as usual for the valiant visitors - Andres Iniesta scored a third eight minutes in to all but settle the fixture before Suarez grabbed his second after a great period of football from Luis Enrique's men.

Real Madrid 0-4 Barcelona

Copa del Rey, semi-final 2nd leg

February 27, 2019

Three second-half goals for Barca ensured a comfortable 4-1 victory over Real in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey after a tense 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu left everything to play for.

Unlike the first leg, the first half of the second leg was dominated by Real Madrid yet the tie remained level at the break - the second half however, told a somewhat different tale.

Despite Real's dominance, Luis Suarez scored the all-important opener for Barcelona, smashing home a simple chance to give the visitors the lead before a fortunate own goal from Raphael Varane appeared to have put the game beyond doubt.

After being fouled by Casemiro in the 73rd minute, Blaugrana's clinical Uruguayan scored the third from a penalty with an audacious chip to wrap up an important win for the Catalonian giants.

Despite the hard-earned victory, it wasn't to be for Quique Setien's side as they fell to a 2-1 defeat against Valencia.

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