From Barcelona to Istanbul, Moscow to Rio, this weekend should be a fascinating one for football fans as a series of the world’s biggest matches are played out. Heading the list is of course the Barcelona v Real Madrid clash in La Liga. Arguably Europe’s biggest two sides meet with a sizeable gap between them already. After their stuttering start, Jose Mourinho’s Real need to win to cut into the Catalans’ eight point lead.
Tito Vilanova’s side have yet to fail to win in the league this season, so they are putting an 100% record on the line. It should be an intriguing game, given that Real have been questioned for their attitude in defeats to Sevilla and Getafe, but should not be found wanting up against their great rivals. And Real did win the Spanish Super Cup before the league season began, getting one up on Barcelona already. And the last time they visited Barcelona in the league, they effectively won the title as Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winner.
Ronaldo will resume his duel with Leo Messi too in the Clasico, and he has scored two hat tricks in a row. You would not bet against him making it a third. And Messi has 10 goals in 10 games so far, although he has not scored in three. It is statistics like that which make him an inevitable scorer once more. So expect these two to dominate the game, and probably the scoresheet. But plenty else will be key in this game, with Xavi and Andres Iniesta set for another examination of their supreme passing skills by Real’s more defensively minded Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira, while Mourinho may opt to take one attacking midfielder out and add in another deeper lying player to break up Barcelona attacks.
This is not the only Clasico taking place this weekend though. Indeed elsewhere on Sunday night, not so far away from Barcelona, is ‘Le Classique’, the battle between Marseille and Paris St Germain. A huge game in the 1990s, when the two teams were battling for superiority in France, these two resume their rivalry and for the first time in many a year, as the two top teams in the country. Marseille have improved dramatically this season after the disappointment of last year, and are top of the league, three points clear of their fierce rivals. They lost their perfect start to the season last weekend with a 4-1 defeat to Valenciennes, whilst Paris St Germain have won five in a row. So fierce is the rivalry that visiting fans are not allowed to travel, aside from 150 allowed by French authorities, and this should be a particularly fiery clash.
In Italy, there will be the Milan derby, as Inter face AC. Neither side has particularly enjoyed their games at the San Siro this season, losing two of their three home league games apiece after the relaying of the pitch in pre-season. Both sides also downsized somewhat this summer, but it is Inter who have the upper hand coming into this one, lying four points behind leaders Juventus and Napoli. If Andrea Stramaccioni’s side win, it will pile on the pressure for his opposite number Massimo Allegri.
Further east, there are two big derbies in some of Europe’s ‘lesser leagues’. In Russia, Spartak Moscow and CSKA Moscow resume their own fierce rivalry in one of the most open title races in Europe, whilst Istanbul giants Fenerbahce and Besiktas square off hoping to win the right to challenge Galatasaray for this season’s title.
Back in western Europe, Porto and Sporting Lisbon meet in one of Portugal’s biggest rivalries. It is Sporting’s rivals Benfica who are Porto’s biggest title rivals, and this will be a stern examination for them. Across the Atlantic, Brazil as usual has some of the most fiercely fought rivalries in world football. Sao Paulo take on local rivals Palmeiras, who are battling against relegation, and the home team will be delighted to inflict upon them a damaging defeat. And then Clarence Seedorf’s Botafogo, one of Brazil’s biggest teams, travel to league leaders and Rio de Janeiro rivals Fluminense hoping to dent their title charge.
It all adds up to one of the best weekends of the season, and a real treat for football fans across the world.