So, next Saturday at 22:00 GMT+1, most of the population of Spain (and a fair amount of the world) will stop what they're doing and turn on the TV to see the "Clásico", the most important game of the football/soccer season, Real Madrid vs. F.C. Barcelona.
There are only 7 games left and Madrid and Barça are tied at the top of the Spanish Liga, after a historic run up until now. Both teams have 77 out of 90 possible points, almost unheard of before, and on track to shatter both the points and the goals scored records (Madrid 2.73 goals/game, Barça 2.5). The third placed team, is a staggering 21 points behind them (that means they would need 7 extra victories just to tie them). Crazy.
Why is this? As you probably know, there is no salary cap in the Spanish Liga. Hence, the teams with the best economic market/conditions tend to have the most powerful teams. And Madrid and Barça are the perfect examples of this. The economic power of these two teams has resulted in two rosters full with stars, capped by arguably the two best players in the world at the moment, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Messi, fresh from destroying Arsenal in the Champions League QF with four goals, is the leading scorer of the Liga with 26 goals in 30 games, and the leader of an amazing Barcelona, with a team-oriented style of play exquisite to watch.
Cristiano has carried a more individually-oriented Real Madrid to the first place of the Liga, despite getting eliminated in the Champions. With a game full of power, speed and swagger, he has quickly become the new idol for the Madrid faithful.
The game will be played in the +85000 seats Santiago Bernabéu, Real Madrid's stadium. There are still doubts for the starting XI, Kaká for Real Madrid and Ibrahimovic for Barça still nursing injuries, but the most probable lineups are the following:
Defense: Sergio Ramos / Albiol / Garay / Arbeloa
Midfield: Gago / Xabi Alonso / Marcelo / Van der Vaart
Forwards: C Ronaldo / Higuaín
Defense: Alves / Puyol / Piqué / Maxwell
Midfield: Keita / Busquets / Xavi / Iniesta
Forwards: Messi / Henry
Don't know who will broadcast this game in the US, but I'm sure you'll be able to find tons of links around. Myself, I'll be plugged to the TV like Whitney on crack. Personal prediction: on the office pool i've put a 3-2 for Madrid. We'll see.
Thanks for putting up with irrational fútbol love. Junk away.