It’s shaping up to be a tasty weekend in Spain with big derby matches on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Madrid and Barcelona. The first two have been scheduled for some time with Barcelona’s trip to city rivals Espanyol the standout fixture this weekend in La Liga although there are some significant other fixtures. That includes Valencia’s clash with Sevilla, which is key to Los Che’s chances of getting back into the running for a top four finish.
The biggest game in Spain this weekend though and arguably the biggest in Europe will take place at the Bernabeu on Sunday with Madrid the new venue for the 2nd Leg of the Copa Libertadores Final between Buenos Aires rivals River Plate and Boca Juniors. It’s a setting that has been hastily and somewhat controversially arranged after the violent scenes in Argentina a couple of weeks back.
Here is more on the three big derbies this weekend in Madrid and Catalonia:
The other Madrid Derby
Friday, Butarque… #ConMiBol ⚽️😜
🤝 Maximum rivalry. Maximum respect. pic.twitter.com/gkMkSiEtw4
— C.D. Leganés 🇺🇸🇬🇧 (@CDLeganes_en) December 3, 2018
Football rivalries in the Spanish capital don’t just start and end with clashes between Real and Atletico. This season there are a record five Madrid teams in the Spanish top flight and the next biggest rivalry is the one between Leganes and Getafe, with the two sides set to meet this Friday in the South Madrid derby.
It would only take around an hour to walk between the two stadiums such is their close proximity. Both are unremarkable commuter towns on the fringes of the Spanish capital but a relatively fierce football rivalry has built up over the years. That said this is only the third time they’ve met in the top flight.
Getafe won on their trip to Butarque last term and would actually move above Real Madrid and into 5th if they can repeat the trick here. Leganes have only lost once at home this season though and are in good form so it promises to be an even game between two sides that are naturally physical and competitive, even without the added derby element.
Espanyol hoping to end Catalan Derby Woe
— AS English (@English_AS) February 6, 2018
It’s pretty safe to say that Espanyol don’t tend to enjoy life against their local rivals but they will be hoping for a change of luck when the Barcelona derby takes place this Saturday evening. Their last league victory over Barca was back in the 2008/09 season actually coming via a 2-1 win at Camp Nou. Their last home win in a league Barcelona derby was way back in 2006/07 when Espanyol won 3-1 at the old Estadi Olímpic with current Barca boss Ernesto Valverde in charge of the hosts that day.
This Saturday’s game will take place at the RCDE Stadium, the relatively new home of Espanyol. Barcelona did lose at the ground for the first time in the Copa del Rey last term, only to win the 2nd Leg to progress from a particularly feisty tie. The matter of Catalan independence and some disparaging remarks about Espanyol by Gerard Pique have helped stir up the rivalry again and the bad blood was even evident last weekend when Pique clashed with former Espanyol forward Gerard Moreno, in Barca’s game against Villarreal.
The only thing that stops this being a genuinely great derby, is that Barcelona are normally just so much better than their nearest neighbours. Espanyol do have hope heading into this particular edition though. They’ve La Liga’s best home record with 5 wins from 6 in front of their own fans and with Barcelona flattering to deceive on their travels, it could be tight. The one game they didn’t win at home though was also a Catalan derby against Girona and Espanyol fans will be hoping to finally get some home success over one of their neighbours here.
River & Boca Do Battle at the Bernabeu
— AS English (@English_AS) November 30, 2018
In a week when La Liga and the Spanish FA have been continuing to do battle over the right to play a Spanish league match in Miami, the backdrop of a Copa Libertadores Final in Madrid has certainly made many question their stance on both matters.
One argument is that this game now holds a lot less weight than it might have. There are certainly accusations that the South American football authorities have simply used the trouble that marred the build-up to what should have been the 2nd Leg at the Estadio Monumental, to further their own agenda and promote the competition overseas at the expense of the local fans in Buenos Aires. Most of those supporters wouldn’t have been able to afford the trip over or even get a ticket for this Sunday’s rescheduled Libertadores Final in Madrid. As a result, the atmosphere clearly won’t be as intense as it might have been and by playing the game 6000 miles from the Argentine capital, River have clearly lost their home advantage.
Despite that, there is still a great deal of excitement about the fixture in Spain. Madrid has the biggest Argentine expat community anywhere in the world and there will still be large numbers of Boca and River fans in attendance. It’s also been seen as a test of Spain’s capability to host a match of this magnitude and potential difficulties, with the country gearing up to bid for the 2030 World Cup, the Final of which would most likely be at the Bernabeu.
For better or worse, all the drama around this fixture has only served to boost the profile of it and it’s doubtful that any match between two South American club sides has ever generated more interest in Europe. It has been so long since the 1st Leg, that it’s perhaps worth a reminder that the score is currently 2-2 after an entertaining contest at La Bombonera. Perhaps fortunately given the circumstances, the away goals rule is not enforced in the Final of the Copa Libertadores so this will have the feel of a one-off game on neutral turf as River and Boca clash to decide who the champions of South America will be.
Whichever side is celebrating come Full-Time at the Bernabeu, will most likely end up playing Real Madrid later this month, with the FIFA Club World Cup starting soon in the UAE.