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El Clasico: More than a game

  • Story Highlights
  • Fans of Real Madrid and Barcelona preview Saturday's El Clasico
  • Barcelona travel to Madrid four points clear of Real with five league games left
  • Let us know your thoughts on the two clubs and the match in the Sound Off
By Neale Graham and Ben Wyatt
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Two giants in the world of club football clash on Saturday in a game so entwined in Spanish history and culture it even has its own nickname. Many ingredients combine to create the potent El Clasico brew, a game that pitches Real Madrid against Barcelona.

Ronaldinho (right) and Ruud van Nistelrooy (left)

Barcelona give then champions Real Madrid a guard of honour before last season's El Clasico.

Rivalry between city-clubs for national dominance is common to most nations, but in Spain there is extra spice between the two largest conurbations in that Barcelona is situated in, and representative of, the autonomous region of Catalonia.

The Catalan community is distinct within Spain with its own language, culture and strong sense of identity; situated on the banks of the Mediterranean, the team is seen as an extension to this, hence the club's motto of "more than a club" and the appearance of the Catalan national flag on its badge.

Real, on the other hand, hail from the capital Madrid, home to the offices of government, the Royal Palace and the larger population. Indeed, Spain's King Alfonso XIII gave the club patronage in 1920 and consequently the Royal Crown appears on the side's badge to this day.

The rifts between the two sides have been exacerbated with wrangles over player transfers down the ages too. Both clubs laid claim to the signature of the all-time great Alfredo Di Stefano, only for Real to win through and to reap the rewards of his 307 goals for the side.

Barcelona fans threw a pig's head onto the pitch in the 2002 El Clasico European Cup semifinal to vent their anger at former Barca player Luis Figo, who moved to Real two years earlier. More recently Real Madrid let the talent of Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o leave their ranks, only for the striker to move to Barca where he has so far netted over one hundred goals.

Another thorn in the side of Barcelona fans is the edge Real have over their rivals in the silverware stakes: since the first meeting of the clubs in 1902, Real have accumulated 31 league championships and a record 9 European Cups against Barcelona's tally of 18 league titles and two European Cups.

Which way do you think El Clasico and the Primera Liga title will go? Let us know in the Sound Off box below.

With this in mind, Saturday's meeting between the two clubs at Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium, which can hold over 70-thousand passionate fans, threatens to be as explosive as ever. Especially as this season, under the tutelage of Catalan manager Pep Guardiola, Barcelona have seen their 12-point lead at the top of the table eaten up by their previously written-off arch-rivals.

So could the destiny of this year's Primera Liga hinge on the second installment of this season's El Clasico? Below are the viewpoints of two ardent fans ahead of the game:

Dani Linares-Lopez, Real Madrid fan:

Real fan Dani Linares

Real fan Dani Linares shares a pre-El Clasico drink with a fellow fanatic befores last season's game

"I'm a Real Madrid supporter -- we can't fear the Catalans. I was at the Bernabeu last year when Madrid beat Barcelona 4-1 and they had to give our players a guard of honor as the champions. It was beautiful.

"We're out to take the title again as we've got nothing else to focus on. We'll go out all guns blazing and I think we'll win because we're more up for it than they are.

"I do think Barcelona will still win the league by a point, though. But you never know because Barcelona have the Champions League and the Spanish Cup final to distract them and a few injuries would change things.

"Some bookmakers paid out on Barcelona winning the title after they beat Madrid at the Camp Nou. Everyone thought it was all over, even me. But Juande Ramos has turned it around by training the players harder and now they're really fit. We've been winning ugly but we've kept on winning. Ramos should be given the job permanently if we win the title." Prediction: 2-1 or 3-2 to Real Madrid

Reda Benzakour, Barcelona fan:

Barca fan Reda Benzakour with Lionel Messi

Barca fan Reda Benzakour with Barcelona forward Lionel Messi.

"As a Barca fan El Clasico is THE game that I look forward for the whole season. Last year was a frustrating and bitter experience. Frustrating during the first leg in Camp Nou where Barca dominated the whole game but failed to score an equalizer. Bitter because during the second leg at the Bernabeu, we were humiliated by the score and the Barca players gave a "guard of honor" for Real players for the title won before the game.

"As a Barca fan, this was the worst of scenarios and the culmination of years of humiliation. Real will have to attack if they want to win this game and stay in the race for the title. But I'm confident that Barca will bring a good result from Madrid.

Also I'm sure the Barca players are keen to avenge last year's humiliation. It will decide the title because if we win it will give us a 7 point-lead and confidence to go forward and for Real it will take the wind out of their sails." Prediction 1-1

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