Preview: Barcelona & Real Madrid to battle for all-time bragging rights in 'El Clasico'
The two most traditionally successful clubs in Spanish football have both won 95 and drawn 51 times in the 241 meetings dating back to the genesis of their rivalry in the early 1900's.
Barcelona's 3-0 win at the Santiago Bernebeu this week to book their places in the final of the Copa del Rey not only underlined their ascendency at the summit of Spanish football, but also highlighted the flaws currently stifling a Real Madrid side shorn of Cristiano Ronaldo's attacking talents.Also on rt.com What's old is Nou again - Barcelona to wear retro kit in El Clasico to mark 20 years with Nike
Lionel Messi, now La Liga's undisputed king, is the all-time top scorer and assister in El Clasico history (26 goals, 14 assists) and is enjoying another fine season for the Catalan club with 33 goals in all competitions. Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele, the other two-thirds of Barcelona's potent attacking trio, have chimed in with 32 strikes between them.
Real Madrid, though, have displayed comparatively little fluency in front of goal. Karim Benzema sits atop their goalscoring list with 19. Gareth Bale has managed 13 in between stints on the treatment table and, while an impressive stat in its own right, defender Sergio Ramos' 11 goals marks him as the club's third highest goalscorer, a symptom perhaps of a team struggling to make creative breakthroughs.
Incidentally, club captain Ramos will take part in a record-equalling 42nd El Clasico and will share the record with Xavi, Francisco Gento and Manuel Sanchís Hontiyuelo.
One bright spark for Madrid this season has been the emergence of 18-year-old wonderkid Vinicius Junior. The Brazilian import from Flamengo is one of the most highly-touted talents in the sport and Real Madrid's stuttering performances this season have forced boss Santiago Solari to fast-track his emergence into the first team squad.
4 goals in his debut season aren't exactly 'Galactico' stats just yet but this is a player set to make an impact in this fixture for years to come.
Victory for Barcelona would see them extend their lead over third-placed Real Madrid to a seemingly insurmountable 12 points, with their city rival Atletico currently 7 points behind prior to Saturday's fixtures.
Real Madrid, one feels, must not present as porous a front as they did in their humiliating second-half collapse in their home stadium earlier this week - particularly when you consider that they enjoyed the better of the play in the game's opening stanza.Also on rt.com Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona: Suarez torments Real as Barca march into Copa del Rey final
A second defeat to their biggest rivals in front of their home fan in a matter of days would be a sucker punch to a club for whom second-best isn't an option. With the task of replacing Cristiano Ronaldo's annual goal tally becoming an increasingly serious issue, one suspects that another anaemic performance in front of goal on Saturday and the agent who represents Eden Hazard - the Chelsea maestro linked with a move to the Spanish capital this summer - may well be fielding some phone calls on Monday morning.