By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. "With so many Clasico clashes," Iker Casillas claimed last year. "Sometimes they become decaffeinated." Diluted, dissolved, dumbed down, diminished - the world's finest fixture is losing its sparkle.
It is not just Casillas. Towards the end of his reign at Camp Nou, Pep Guardiola claimed he no longer looked forward to facing Barca's eternal enemies, while even fans and commentators have grown somewhat apathetic towards the great game in Spain as the meetings increase year after year. "If you are bored and fed up of watching a billion Clasicos every season, retweet this message," wrote Goal.com's Deputy Editor Carlo Garganese on Twitter earlier this week. Over 140 people did and many more agreed.
And it is hardly surprising. In 2010-11, Barca met Madrid on five occasions in La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League, including four fixtures in the space of 17 days in April and May. Last season, the two teams did battle six times - twice in the Primera Division, twice in the Copa and twice in the Spanish Supercopa. This term, Catalans and Castilians will lock horns in a minimum of six matches, but could end up playing each other in eight encounters before the season is up.
The Spanish Supercopa series early in the season was followed by a first league meeting in October. And on Wednesday, Jose Mourinho's men face Tito Vilanova's team for the fourth time this term, in a Copa del Rey semi-final first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, to be followed by a return at Camp Nou in late February, a second Liga clash in Madrid days later, plus a possible double date in the latter stages of the Champions League after that. Enough, surely, to affect even the most ardent admirers of this fixture.
Luckily, however, two men make it all worthwhile. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo continue their personal duel and approach Wednesday's Copa clash in their finest form following scintillating showings on Sunday. Thanks to the Argentine and the Portuguese, the sides' next meeting will be anything but boring.
|TWO PERFECT PERFORMANCES
|CRISTIANO RONALDO vs GETAFE
||Forced Moya into action twice in the first half with two good efforts, before netting a brilliant hat-trick after the break. The first was a well-struck left-footed shot, while the second and third were a firm header and a penalty.
| LIONEL MESSI vs OSASUNA
||Messi was at his predatory best, plundering four goals, and making the visitors feel their numerical deficit in the most painful way. It defies belief how clinical he can be in front of goal.
Cristiano continued his superb start to 2013 with a 'perfect' hat-trick against Getafe on Sunday, netting a left-footed angled drive after Sergio Ramos had given Madrid the lead, before adding a brilliant header and a penalty with his right to make it 10 goals in 2013 already.
Messi managed one more versus Osasuna as he surpassed 200 league goals with Barcelona and became the first player to net in 11 consecutive Liga matches as Barca beat the northerners 5-1 later on Sunday, albeit after a controversial call by the referee had left the visitors with 10 men on just 18 minutes as Alejandro Arribas was shown a second yellow card for a handball in the area which looked anything but deliberate.
Messi duly dispatched the penalty and added two more after that to take his tally to the season to an incredible 44 goals in just 32 games.
In his 32 games for Madrid, meanwhile, Ronaldo has 33 but is one ahead of his counterpart for 2013, and both players approach Wednesday's Clasico at the pinnacle of their fabulous form.
The two rivals dominated the last meeting between Barca and Madrid with two goals apiece in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Camp Nou back in October, which left pundits purring over the prodigious pair.
Now they meet again and more than Barcelona against Madrid, many will be looking ahead to Ronaldo versus Messi. Can Cristiano score for a seventh successive time in the fixture? Will Leo break Alfredo Di Stefano's all-time record for goals in the magnificent match-up?
On this form, anything is possible and while the Clasico has indeed become "decaffeinated" in recent times due to the sheer overload of games between the two fierce foes, Messi and Ronaldo look set to serve up another tasty brew on Wednesday.
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