You can’t have too much of a good thing, can you? Well, not when it comes to El Clasico, you can’t, and as Barcelona and Real Madrid prepare to square off twice in a matter of five days, you won’t find anybody complaining about the two giants of Spanish football meeting with such regularity.
Not when the games are, almost without exception, as enjoyable as any you will find the world over. You might expect as much with the array of world-class talent on display, but these games never fail to deliver everything you expect from such an intense rivalry: there is plenty of needle and tetchiness to go with the skill and glamour.
Only once since 2008 has a match between the two teams produced fewer than two goals, and 2008 seems like a decent starting point when summarising the recent history between the clubs.
That summer, Pep Guardiola took the reins at Camp Nou and since August 2008, Barca have met Real no less than 19 times, with the 20th meeting on Tuesday in the Copa del Rey swiftly followed by Saturday’s clash in La Liga.
Of course, the match at the Bernabeu is largely an irrelevance as far as the title race is concerned – even Jose Mourinho has conceded that his side have no chance of retaining their championship being 16 points behind Barca in third place with just 13 games to play – but the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final is a different matter entirely.
A 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu nearly a month ago, when Cesc Fabregas’ opener was cancelled out by Raphael Varane’s late equaliser, has set the tie up very nicely indeed in what is Real Madrid’s last hope of a domestic trophy this season.
Mourinho has targeted this competition and the Champions League before he, as looks likely, departs the Spanish capital in the summer, and he strangely finds himself in almost identical situations in both cups, drawing 1-1 after the home leg (as is the case against Manchester United).
But the former Chelsea boss is not too perturbed by that, and he will look at Barcelona and think they are vulnerable. The poor showing in the 2-0 Champions League defeat to AC Milan last weekend has been coming for Tito Vilanova’s side, who have won just five of their last ten fixtures in all competitions, losing twice, which is a poor run for their exalted standards.
Madrid have won six and lost just one in that time, and it makes the 7/2 on a Real win a more tempting price than the 13/20 on Barcelona, with the draw at 31/10.
But the ropey away record Mourinho’s men have posted this year – they have lost five of their 13 La Liga fixtures on the road – is putting me off backing them, even if 13/20 looks too short for a team that seem to have forgotten how to defend.
Incredibly, Barcelona have not kept a clean sheet for 11 matches, which is the precise reason for their poor run, and even if they remain impenetrable at home – they have won all but three of their 19 home games in league and cup this season, drawing the other three – they are giving their opponents a chance: Vilanova’s side have kept just five clean sheets in those 19 home games.
And with a record of both teams scoring in this fixture – 12 of the last 14 meetings have seen each side hit the net – Madrid are definitely going to score and I like the evens on Cristiano Ronaldo getting on the scoresheet against Barcelona yet again.
The Portuguese superstar has eight goals in his last nine fixtures against Barcelona, including both goals in the 2-2 draw in La Liga at the Camp Nou earlier in the season, and he is in the form to bag a ninth.
Ronaldo has scored 15 goals since the Spanish teams reconvened after the winter break in January, and the former Manchester United man can add to his 35 goals for club and country this year against a Barca back line that has conceded 16 goals in their last 11 matches.