The 238th installment of El Clasico will have a noticeably different feel to it, as Spain’s marquee match between Real Madrid and Barcelona won’t feature the era-defining talents of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the first time in over a decade.
Ronaldo, of course, is plying his trade in Italy with Juventus, while Messi misses the encounter through injury after breaking his arm last weekend.
Despite the focus of the match shifting away from the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry for the first time since 2007, there’s every reason to believe that the same level of intensity and hatred will be present when they take the pitch for the latest edition of one of the most anticipated matches on the football calendar.
Here’s a look at the best matches between the two before Messi and Ronaldo dominated the narrative:
7. 1974: Real Madrid 0, Barcelona 5 – Cruyff masterclass
Johan Cruyff exceeded expectations when he got his first taste of El Clasico. The legendary Dutch playmaker helped Barcelona snap a 14-year winless run in El Clasico with a truly dominant performance that saw him score once and provide three assists in a 5-0 thrashing of Real Madrid.
6. 1953: Real Madrid 5, Barcelona 0 – Di Stefano’s 1st
Two weeks after a controversial transfer from River Plate saw Real Madrid best Barcelona – under controversial circumstances, no less – for the right to sign Alfredo Di Stefano, the revered Argentine announced his arrival in Europe in spectacular fashion during his first El Clasico. He opened the scoring 10 minutes into the tie before putting the finishing touch on a 5-0 victory with another in the 85th minute. Di Stefano would go on to finish his career as Real Madrid’s highest scorer in El Clasico with 18 goals – a record that was matched by Ronaldo last season.
5. 2005: Real Madrid 4-2 Barcelona – A true battle of the stars
Star power was on full display, as Real Madrid and Barcelona flexed their world class attacks in the final Clasico of 2005. Zinedine Zidane, Raul, Ronaldo and Michael Owen found the back of the net to cancel out goals by Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o in Real Madrid’s 4-2 victory over the Blaugrana.
4. 2001: Real Madrid 2-2 Barcelona – Things got a little heated
Tempers boiled over during one of the more controversial Clasicos in recent memory, as the two foes went toe-to-toe in a match that saw Barcelona’s Rivaldo and Real Madrid forward Raul trade braces en route to a 2-2 draw. Barca should’ve won the match, but Rivaldo’s bid for a hat-trick was called back because of an incorrect offside decision.
3. 1987: Barcelona 3, Real Madrid 2 – Lineker dominates
No Englishman dominated El Clasico quite like Gary Lineker did more than 30 years ago. After giving Barcelona 2-0 lead five minutes into the tie, the former Tottenham star capped off the memorable night with what would prove to be the game-winning goal early in the second half before Real Madrid mounted a brief comeback with two late goals.
2. 2002: Real Madrid 2-0 Barcelona: Real books ticket to Champions League final
Before his goal helped Real Madrid capture their ninth European title, Zinedine Zidane played a pivotal role in eliminating Barcelona in the semifinal of the Champions League. Zizou opened the scoring in the first leg before Steve McManaman ultimately secured the win with a stoppage time goal. It was the first time that the bitter rivals met on the European stage in over 40 years.
1. 2005: Real Madrid 0, Barcelona 3: Ronaldinho brings the Bernabeu to its feet
It takes a truly special performance to by an opponent to bring the Real Madrid faithful to their feet at the Santiago Bernabeu. Especially if the adversary plays for the Catalan giants.
But one doesn’t have to look too far back in the history books for such a display of affection for a rival, as Real Madrid supporters showed their appreciation for Ronaldinho after the Brazilian capped off a mouthwatering display with a sublime goal to give him a hat-trick on the night.