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Real Madrid will host Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga Week 33 on Sunday, in what is always one of the highlights of the sporting calendar.
It’s a crucial Clasico match too. Madrid come into this one with a three-point lead over Barcelona at the top of the table, having played a game less.
A win for Zinedine Zidane’s side would surely extinguish any hopes the Catalan giants have of mounting a late comeback in the title race, but Barcelona can haul themselves back into contention with three points.
Elsewhere this weekend, Atletico Madrid visit Espanyol, while Sevilla host Tony Adams’ Granada side in Friday’s clash.
Here’s a look at the schedule for the weekend, the key viewing details and a closer look at the two men who so frequently have a say on the biggest fixture in club football.
|La Liga 2016-17: Week 33 Fixtures|
|Friday, April 21||8 p.m.||Sevilla vs. Granada||3-0|
|Saturday, April 22||12 p.m.||Malaga vs. Valencia||1-1|
|Saturday, April 22||3:15 p.m.||Villarreal vs. Leganes||2-0|
|Saturday, April 22||5:30 p.m.||Osasuna vs. Sporting Gijon||1-1|
|Saturday, April 22||7:45 p.m.||Espanyol vs. Atletico Madrid||0-2|
|Sunday, April 23||11 a.m.||Real Sociedad vs. Deportivo||1-0|
|Sunday, April 23||3:15 p.m.||Celta Vigo vs. Real Betis||3-1|
|Sunday, April 23||5:30 p.m.||Las Palmas vs. Alaves||3-1|
|Sunday, April 23||7:45 p.m.||Real Madrid vs. Barcelona||2-1|
|Monday, April 24||7:45 p.m.||Eibar vs. Athletic Bilbao||1-1|
Matches can be streamed via beIN Sports CONNECT (U.S.)
*Matches can be streamed via Sky Go (U.K.)
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
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He’s the man for the big occasion, isn’t he?
Cristiano Ronaldo is a remarkable footballer. During Madrid’s midweek meeting with Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League, a hat-trick from the 32-year-old helped fire his side into the quarter-finals in controversial style. And while the Portugal international may no longer have a massive impact on general play, he remains a goal machine.
As supporters around the globe look ahead to Sunday’s match at the Bernabeu, the comparisons will be made between Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones offered his opinion:
Dean Jones @DeanJonesBR
Messi is a better footballer but Ronaldo is better at winning games. Fair?
4/19/2017, 8:51:55 PM
Indeed, while there will be many Madrid players who have more touches of the ball on Sunday, you wouldn’t back against the former Manchester United man having the decisive ones.
The Portuguese has evolved his game in recent years. Gone are the days when he used to hug the touchline, bamboozle defenders with his box of tricks and surge past opponents with searing pace. As of late, and especially since Zidane took over at Los Blancos, Ronaldo has evolved into the game’s apex penalty-box predator.
Per Sky Sports’ Spanish football expert Guillem Balague, there has been a clear shift in the forward this term:
Guillem Balague @GuillemBalague
Again Ronaldo showing why he’s the best number 9 in the world. This is the new Cristiano: new training plan, more rest, big in big games
4/18/2017, 9:07:00 PM
He has a habit of making his mark in this fixture too. Indeed, only Alfredo Di Stefano can better Ronaldo’s goalscoring record in Clasico matches for Los Blancos; the great man has 18, while Ronaldo is perched on 16 as things stand.
The only person to have netted in this showpiece game more times than that duo? Messi.
Lionel Messi, Barcelona
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Although the comparisons between Messi and Ronaldo haven’t been favourable to the former this week, it shouldn’t take away from the fact that, individually, the Barcelona man has enjoyed a tremendous campaign.
Granted, Messi did miss some important chances in the second leg against Juventus, although Barcelona were always going to have a mountain to climb having lost the first leg 3-0. But as noted by Ken Early of the Irish Times, suggestions he is on the decline have been greatly exaggerated:
Ken Early @kenearlys
fighting back tears at elegy from dunphy & brady for lionel messi, who’s scored just 45 goals in 44 games this season #RIP #goodbyelionel 😢
4/19/2017, 8:51:21 PM
This season Barcelona have struggled in spite of Messi’s excellence, not because of his underperformance.
For long spells of the 2016-17 season, the 29-year-old has been irresistible, fulfilling the role as playmaker, creator and goalscorer-in-chief for the Blaugrana at times. Had it not been for his ability to haul Barcelona through matches, they would be a long way back in this title race.
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Still, Messi will want to leave his mark on one of these colossal contests, having struggled to do so in recent years. Of course, the No. 10’s influence isn’t limited to goals, but he hasn’t found the net in this fixture since a 4-3 win for Barcelona at the Bernabeu in 2014.
As noted by Spanish football journalist David Cartlidge, at times the team has been too reliant on their talisman:
David Cartlidge @davidjaca
Barça meanwhile slow, predictable, failed to alternate their game. Pass it to Messi – hope he does something. We know this well now though.
4/19/2017, 8:42:15 PM
You sense they’ll look to Messi here, though, especially without the suspended Neymar. It’s likely Barcelona will have most of the ball, although they must be smart in their use of possession and look to find the Argentina man in dangerous areas.
In recent weeks, Messi has gone searching for the ball, dropping deeper and deeper in an attempt to get involved in the play, with possession not moving through the lines quickly enough.
Although their main man is often scrutinised, the Barcelona team must do more to help bring the best from him on Sunday.