It is upon us! The first Classico of the season! Kickoff is unbelievably in under a few hours and fans around the globe are eagerly anticipating the opening whistle. And I mean this literally; tonight's match will feature coverage from 757 professionals over 190 media platforms from five different continents with an estimated 400 million spectators which is four times more than the previous La Liga Classico (you may commence jaw dropping).
The buildup to tonight's match has been joyfully kinder than the past and many came out to speak about the occasion to the press like coaches (assistant coaches), club presidents, and players getting the fans (more) excited.
Aitor Karanka stepped in for Jose Mourinho in yesterday's pre-match press conference. This is probably due to the amount of media pressure on the coach last year, and personally, I think it is a classy move from the coach to ensure all the focus should remain on the football that will be on display tonight. Below you can read a bit of Karanka's statement, but if you choose you can read it all here.
"[...]Our players are increasingly confident and, whatever happens tomorrow, three points will be at stake. Whatever happens, the balance we have will not change. The game will be up for grabs until it ends. It will see great players and great coaches displaying many tactical variants[...] We know all the systems Barça may use and are working on it. We're only concerned about focusing on our own team, using our own system and showcasing our principles, which will remain the same. [...] We've designed our tactics to win. [...]We've all known each other for a year and a half, and the coach doesn't have to prompt me. We're all united and our message is always the same. We know everyone likes tomorrow's clash. We've been together longer now, we know our players better, we're more confident as a result of this and are earning good results. This helps the team be in good form."
"I'll have to make a perfect game to win.We're going to the [league] leader's home ground, to give everything we have and play the best game we possibly can. I do not think [Real being top] will influence the game too much. Playing in accordance with the league standings has no value.
Madrid always demand [a lot of you] and Mourinho is a highly-prepared coach, but I am not tired of playing against them. The two will play to win, then we'll see how it ends. We must be fluid and functional. It won't easy, because they are an intense team, who force you back and go after you."
The two presidents of the clubs also met for their traditional pre-Classico lunch and spoke at the press conference:
"It is an event to be proud of, not only for Barcelona and Real Madrid but for the Spanish league because we haveachieved something spectacular with this game. My only wish is that the game lives up to expectations and I'm sure we will not disappoint the millions of spectators who witness the fixture."
-Florentino Perez, President of Real Madrid
"Hopefully this game is an example of sportsmanship and an example to everyone. We have great enthusiasm and we're looking forward to the game. There is a healthy rivalry between the two teams."
-Sandro Rossell, President of FC Barcelona
Extraordinarily well said by both figures as it builds up the match in a healthy manner, something that had been decisively lacking last year.
And last but certainly not least, the players themselves have taken to twitter to build up the hype.
Sergio Ramos gave us something to cheer about as he typed:
"Today more than ever... Let's go Real!!! Until the end!!!"
While Arbeloa gave us something to laugh about as he playfully tweeted:
"We rode TOGETHER. We died TOGETHER. Madridistas FOREVER."
And even the elusive Nuri Sahin came out and tweeted a "Hala Madrid!".
It is obvious that the players are in good spirits and so are many. For those of you unaware, today is Higuain's birthday (Happy Birthday Pipita!) and hopefully he can celebrate it with a Classico victory.
Join us here tonight at the live thread and as always HALA MADRID!