Real Madrid and Barcelona square off once again this Wednesday at the Santiago Bernabeu in yet another Clasico. And although this Copa del Rey isn't exactly "El Clasico" of the Spanish Primera Division, any match between these two teams is automatically going to be highly contested.
Here's the thing about Clasicos. We always look forward to them because they're generally important matches that pit two of the best teams in Spain against each other. They're supposed to be full of excitement, dramatic goals, breathtaking plays, and passion as both teams take the pitch looking to win. That's why supporters like us turn on that television screen (at sometimes insane hours), or read the play by play, as a couple lucky thousand actually watch the match live.
However, El Clasico has lost some of its sparkle, some of its appeal that would have Spanish, or football fans in general, salivating days in advance. Lately, Clasicos have been memorable not because of the excellent skill fielded on the pitch, but for all the ugliest things in football: cynical fouls, brawls, racism, diving, and rude comments to the press.
It's certainly not because of the footballers. Instead, the blame can be pinned on the quantity of matches played and the rivalry itself.
As Real Madrid and Barcelona continue to qualify for the same competitions, they are repeatedly drawn against each other. Last year alone we had four Clasicos in the span of a couple weeks: the Copa del Rey final, the league clash in Madrid, and the two (disappointing) Champions League semifinals. Ever since the beginning of the new 2011-2012 season, we've already have had three (two legs of the Supercopa and another league clash in Madrid), and are heading towards our fourth and fifth. We are looking at six Clasicos this year so far, and that's not including the high possibility of a clash in the Champions League.
So many high profile matches are stressful on the fans, the players, the coaches and everyone involved. Watching the same two teams over and over makes the Clasico just a little less special.
The rivalry itself also contributes to the dulling of these matches. You would think that it would be the opposite, as the legendary competition between the two teams is originally drew spectators. But recently, it has been the opposite. The teams, fueled by the press, now enter this match with a "must beat the other team" mentality instead of "hey let's take the field and showcase our brand of football and give our fans something to cheer about." Even us fans are affected. Take this Clasico, for example. It is the quarterfinal of the Copa del Rey, a competition usually used to give substitutes playing time, and yet a few fans are giving the match a new degree of importance. And if you ask them, it's no longer about seeing a trophy in white ribbons, but rather about not losing to Barcelona again.
Now don't let this discourage you and stop you from watching the match. Regardless of whether El Clasico isn't the shining glory it used to be, it still holds some qualities that once made it the crowning jewel of matches. You might see Lionel Messi dribbling past six players, or Ronaldo smash a ball into the net, or a rapid counterattack that gets you on your feet. El Clasico might not be the spectacle it used to be, but nonetheless, it shouldn't be missed.