The classic rivalry between the two Spanish giants will once again be on the display at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Historic disputes and new rivalries arrive again in Sunday’s LaLiga ElClasico, when Real Madrid and Barcelona can take a potentially decisive step in this year’s title race and move ahead of their traditional rivals in the all-time historical record.
The two sides go into the game battling at the top of the 2019/20 LaLiga Santander table and locked together with 72 wins each in LaLiga ElClasicos, making a victory at the Santiago Bernabeu highly significant for both players and supporters on each side. There have also been 35 draws in LaLiga meetings over the last nine decades, as fate and fortune have swung back and forth between the two teams.
The first LaLiga ElClasico took place in February 1929, with Madrid winning 2-1 at Barcelona’s old Les Corts stadium. Barça soon got revenge, however, with a 1-0 victory at Real Madrid’s Chamartin stadium, helping them beat Los Blancos to the first ever LaLiga title by just two points.
The ElClasico rivalry was soon established as a key, unmissable part of each LaLiga season. 1934-35 brought two still famous results in the fixture, with Barca winning 5-0 at Les Corts before Real Madrid turned it around with a remarkable 8-2 victory at Chamartin.
The connection between the teams remained tight, especially as players moved freely between all clubs in LaLiga’s early years, with legendary goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora and forward Pep Samitier featuring for both sides in early ElClasicos.
Over the years the football-side of ElClasico became wrapped up in social and cultural factors, especially among their supporters in their home cities. Many at Barcelona identified with Catalan nationalism, while Real Madrid remained proud of its core Spanish identity.
1953’s ‘Alfredo Di Stefano case,’ when the Argentinian superstar almost joined Barça before eventually opting for Real Madrid, further complicated the relationship. Di Stefano remains Los Blancos’ top scorer in LaLiga Clasicos, with his 14 goals in 20 games including a double in a 5-3 away win in December 1960.
Johan Cruyff’s arrival at the Camp Nou in the mid-1970s helped bring Barça back to the top, and the Dutchman’s performance in a 5-0 LaLiga ElClasico win at the Bernabeu in February 1974 is still often talked about today. The Blaugrana’s 5-0 victory with Cruyff as coach in January 1994 was a landmark, then followed 12 months later by Real Madrid getting revenge by the exact same ‘manita’ [“a little hand,” with five fingers] scoreline.
Luis Figo’s shock and controversial 2000 move from the Camp Nou to the Bernabeu ratched up the rivalry between the clubs once again, while things got even more heated when Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho were Barça and Real Madrid coaches respectively. An emphatic 5-0 win in their first meeting in November 2010 set Guardiola’s early dominance, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s decisive goal at the Camp Nou in April 2012 all but sealed that season’s LaLiga title for Mourinho’s men.
Barça’s Lionel Messi is the fixture’s record scorer with 18 goals in 26 LaLiga ElClasicos, including a famous hat-trick at the Bernabeu in 2014. A quirk of recent years has been the away team often getting positive results. Barça have won on their last four visits to the capital, while the 0-0 last December means Los Blancos have lost just one of their last five games at the Camp Nou.
Sunday brings a chance for more LaLiga ElClasico history, as Real Madrid or Barça could take a decisive step in this year’s title race and in the process tilt the historical record back in their favour.