Real Madrid vs Barcelona: What are the best El Clasico matches of the modern era?

As we wait for the match to kick start on Sunday, let us look at some of the memorable El Clasico encounters in recent memory.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in a file photo, Credit: Twitter/@LaLiga
By Karthik Raman | Oct 13, 2022 | 4 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

The first El Clasico of the 2022-23 season is upon us. With only a few days until the start of arguably the most anticipated club football match of the season, both fans have reasons to get excited. These two sides have made excellent starts to the ongoing La Liga season, as there is hardly anything to separate them. After eight matches, they sit in the top two positions with the same number of points (22). Despite the upcoming match set to take place at the Santiago Bernabeu, there are no clear favourites in this contest.

Real Madrid know this very well, thanks to the humiliating defeat they suffered on the same ground last season against their arch-rivals. In the clash that happened last March, the Catalan giants scored four goals without reply. Fast forward to Sunday and Los Blancos will be eager for revenge. Historically this fixture has proven that form and history do not matter, as anything can happen on a given day. As we wait for the match to kick start on Sunday, let us look at some of the memorable El Clasico encounters in recent memory.

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Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona: Thunderbolt Bale steals Copa del Rey 2013/14 final 

The final had everything – end-to-action, high tempo, never-say-die spirit and a late winner. Yet the match is remembered for Gareth Bale’s jaw-dropping run for the winning goal. Real Madrid did not take long to open the scoring, thanks to an 11th-minute opener from Angel Di Maria. Just when Los Blancos seemed to be racing to victory, Barcelona equalised in the 68th minute through Marc Bartra’s header. It set the stage for a grandstand finish but none would have predicted the way in which the eventual winner would turn out!

With only five minutes remaining, flying Welsh winger Gareth Bale picked the ball up just inside his own half on the left flank and was looking to start a counter. There did not seem to be an immediate danger for Barcelona. But no one could have predicted what Bale had in mind even in their wildest dreams. Rather than waiting for support from his teammates, the Welshman decided to run all the way to the goal.

He, however, had Barcelona defender Bartra standing on his way on the left flank. But an undeterred Bale ran past the Spaniard by putting the ball behind him as he went off the field before sprinting back onto the field at a lightning-quick pace, thereby taking Bartra out of the game. Bale then went all the way to score the winner from an acute angle to come up with one of the greatest-ever El Clasico goals.

Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid (La Liga 2012) – Birth of Ronaldo’s iconic ‘calm down’ celebration

This was building up to be a potential La Liga final. Real Madrid were ahead of Barcelona in the standings, hence the onus was on the Catalans to swing the title race back in their favour. With very few games left in the season, this match became all the more critical in deciding the league champions. The visitors started well and their reward was the opening goal through Sami Khedira. But midway through the second half, the home side levelled the score via Alexis Sanchez. 

The whole stadium erupted in joy as the Chilean gave Barcelona a lifeline in the title race. But even before their supporters could bring the celebrations to an end, Cristiano Ronaldo stunned the home crowd. Mesut Ozil picked up the Portuguese forward from the right flank through a brilliant through ball and Ronaldo did the rest to score the winning goal. Ronaldo then ran onto the corner flag celebrating the goal with his now-memorable ‘calm down’ celebration to leave the majority of Camp Nou supporters shellshocked.

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Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona (La Liga 2017) – Messi had the last laugh

This end-to-end thriller will go down in history as one of the finest El Clasicos ever. The game had everything from non-stop action to multiple goals, aggressive tackles, a red card, and a renowned Lionel Messi celebration at the end. With not much to separate the two sides at the top of the La Liga standings, the match that took place in April 2017 had all the ingredients for a potential title decider. Real Madrid started on the front foot, scoring the opener just before the half hour mark through Casemiro. But Messi immediately equalised. 

With both teams pushing for the winner in the second half, Barcelona took the lead at Santiago Bernabeu through Ivan Rakitic in the 73rd minute. Soon after, centre-back Sergio Ramos was sent off, compounding the problem for the home side. But substitute James Rodriguez scored five minutes from time, which many thought was enough to share the spoils. 

However, with just seconds remaining in injury time, Barcelona swiftly moved the ball from one end of the pitch to the other before Jordi Alba pulled the back for an incoming Messi who slotted the ball into the Madrid net to break the hearts of the home support. A celebrating Messi ran onto the corner flag, removed his shirt and held it in his hands before the stands, as photojournalists rushed to take the iconic picture.

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