It’s been an eventful week. From the terrorist attacks that affected several parts of the world to the cancellation of several football matches. One piece of news may have slipped without being noticed. Real Madrid legend, Raul Gonzalez, has hung up his boots. Even when he was at his best, Raul was never the world’s number one, he wasn’t even the best finisher around despite scoring so many goals. Raul was a true leader, a man who gave his best to his team and sacrificed for the sake of the team he once lead, Real Madrid.
There is no need to mention Raul’s records and the championships he won, his history speaks for itself. The fame he built while in Madrid speaks volumes and the trophies he won are hard to count. Off the pitch, he was a role model for any player, for any aspiring leader. He was never in the headlines for bad actions. The fans may have called Iker Casillas San Iker but there is more than enough reasons to call him Raul, San Raul. His legacy will live on and on but ahead of us this week is a Clasico awaiting to be won.
Real Madrid will host Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu in a fully packed stadium. Madrid’s mixed season has seen them lead their Champions League group but trail three points behind Barcelona in La Liga. The three point difference between La Liga’s two biggest clubs means very little considering Los Merengues have been better both defensively and offensively than the Catalans who might have to play without their superstar, Lionel Messi.
Whether Messi plays or not, Los Blancos are not concerned. Rafael Benitez’s team is preparing for an early final. This perhaps could be his biggest game of the season, even if he reaches the Champions League final, a win against Barcelona may be more crucial than that. It could be the moment Cristiano Ronaldo returns back to his best form. Cristiano’s season has not been superb yet he scored eight goals (only Luis Suarez and Neymar have scored more). Obviously, the fans expect more from Ronaldo, particularly when it’s a match that could foreshadow the rest of their season.
Benitez does not have time for doubts, he has to take decisions ahead of the anticipated game. Benitez’s Madrid was not able to take advantage of Lionel Messi’s injury, in fact Los Blancos find themselves three points behind. Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal are just over one month away from playing for Barcelona. Things are not particularly going Real Madrid’s way. Their season has been mixed between bad and solid performances, between a good result against PSG but bad display. Saturday’s game cannot be predicted because what may seem logical in the world of football is illogical when it comes to big rivalries. The game will go down to the smallest details: Sergio Ramos’ composure, Gareth Bale’s speed, Cristiano Ronaldo’s talent and James Rodriguez’s pragmatic style.
Barcelona are leading only because of Real Madrid’s self-destructive performance. Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to be in Paris or Manchester next seaon but this means nothing, the focus must be on getting the ball past Claudio Bravo. A win in the clasico is more than enough to take the dark cloud away from the Santiago Bernabeu. Real Madrid will have to put their full focus on their upcoming match and ignore any distractions ahead whether it may be Messi showing up on the pitch or Barcelona players trying to get on their nerves. Real Madrid play their first final of the season this Saturday in front of their home crowd and the support of their fans will have a big effect on the game. The game will no doubt be a historical one, but who will write the history, Real Madrid or Barcelona?