After 34 matches, 2970 minutes plus, Barcelona are just 360 minutes away from going unbeaten for the whole 2017/18 La Liga season. That is what is on the line when the new champions take on Real Madrid at the Camp Nou on Sunday, which makes the game the more intriguing.
The last Spanish team to go unbeaten in La Liga were Real Madrid in 1932, and you can bet Zinedine Zidane’s men will do all they can to stop the Catalans from achieving the same feat. The fire has been well stoked by Gerard Pique, who said Real Madrid need not give the Catalans a guard of honour since they did not ‘participate’ in La Liga this season.
This was a reference to Barcelona not offering the same courtesy to Los Blancos after they won the FIFA Club World Cup. Zidane fired back, “After the Club World Cup, it wasn’t important for them to give us a guard of honour.
“It’s said that they weren’t in the competition, but that’s not true. You get into it through the Champions League – a completion Barcelona played in.
“They didn’t give us one. What’s most important is respecting what they’ve done: They’ve won the double and I respect that, and I congratulate them on that. We’re not going to do something they didn’t do,” Zidane retorted.
The motivation to retain their unbeaten status after Sunday is very high – a feat they almost managed in the 2009/10 season under Pep Guardiola. They were beaten just once – a 3-2 loss away to Athletic Bilbao.
The gap between the two teams is currently 15 points but the performances of both teams do not suggest that big gap. Barcelona have surely been the more clinical of the two teams over the league season. While Barca scored 87 goals from 359 chances created; Real Madrid scored the 82 from 498 created chances.
But it is in defense that Valverde has got his tactics right. The Blaugrana have conceded just the 19 goals in 34 matches while Real have let in 37.
Since August, with Ernesto Valverde new in the Barcelona dugout, when they were trounced 5-1 on aggregate by Real Madrid, the Catalans have lost just two games – away to Espanyol in the Copa del Rey and the 3-0 defeat away to AS Roma in the Champions League.
They have also escaped with a point in some matches, notably the 2-2 result achieved against Sevilla some weeks ago.
It all points to this being a nervy encounter and a lot may depend on how good the referee is on the night.
Stats [Courtesy FC Barcelona website]
- Sunday’s match will be the 238th El Clasico of all-time
- The long-time rivals have drawn 49 times, while Barca’s 93 wins are just two fewer than Real Madrid’s 95
- Barça is looking for its 50th all-time home in La Liga win over Real Madrid
- The Catalans’ current El Clasico record in league games played at Camp Nou is 49 wins, 18 draws, and 20 losses
- A win on Sunday will give Barça a two-game season sweep over Real Madrid in La Liga for the first time since the 2013/14 season when Gerardo “Tata” Martino was in charge.
- Cristiano Ronaldo with 17 goals is the second all-time Real Madrid scorer in El Clasico, behind the legendary Alfredo di Stefano with 18.
- Ronaldo also has 11 goals in his last 11 visits to Camp Nou in all competitions