It wouldn't be exaggerating to say that when Real Madrid make the trip to Nou Camp to face arch-rivals Barcelona on Monday, it will be football's equivalent to war.
The 209th El Classico promises to be the best yet. With both teams in destructive form, it is safe to say that they're the two best teams in the world at the moment. Add to that the two best players in the world - Lionel Messi for Barcelona, Cristiano Ronaldo for Madrid - and we have a thriller on our hands.
This time around, there is a new ingredient added to the mixture. A certain Jose Mourinho will lead his Real Madrid side into his first Classico. After a dodgy start to his Madrid project, in which he drew 0-0 in two of three away games, his Madrid side have stormed to the top the La Liga table one point ahead of second placed Barcelona, winning with a combination of flair and defensive solidity.
Mourinho's Madrid are unbeaten so far this season, and have scored 33 goals in 12 games, while conceding just six. The Los Blancos go into the Classico on the back of a 4-0 mauling of Ajax Amsterdam in the Champions League during mid-week, though the victory was marred by two supposedly planned red-cards (which would give them a clean slate for the knock-outs) resulting in an investigation by UEFA.
Mourinho has got his team playing with the attacking flair the fans want while building a solid rear-guard which previous Madrid sides didn't have. His summer acquisitions have served him well, with Ricardo Carvalho marshalling the brilliant defence, Sami Khedira holding the midfield while Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria terrorize opposition defenses. He has got the team's talisman Ronaldo back in top form after giving him the freedom to do as he pleases as long as he delivers the goals. However, the key to his reign has been the team-spirit he has instilled showing brilliant man management skills to bring out the best from the likes of Benzema, Pedro Leon and Sergio Canales.
The two-time Champions League winning manager, in his press conference on Sunday, played down the importance of the classico.
Every game is important. Said the special one,Every point that you lose could be key at the end, but after tomorrow's game there will be 25 matches left and there are a lot of points in play and so many factors.
It's an important game but not decisive. If we win, the following morning will be Tuesday, and if we lose, it will also be Tuesday.
He added: I hope that if my team loses, it won't change either their confidence of self-esteem and, if they win, they will continue with their feet on the ground. I will continue to be calm after the game whatever the result.
We need to be aware that the season is played over ten months at a very high level. I'm sure we will continue with calm, regardless of the result.
Mourinho faces a hostile reception at Madrid, where he used to be the translator to Sir Bobby Robson. He courted controversy during his visit to the Catalan when he was manger of Chelsea and Inter Milan. However, the Barca faithful will be especially incensed now that he is the manager of their arch-rivals Real Madrid and memories arise of Luis Figo's infamous transfer to Madrid from Barca when on his return to the Nou Camp he was greeted with hostility culminating in a pig's head being thrown at him.
If Madrid have been brilliant, Barca have been so for the past few years and they have continued that into this season. Lionel Messi seems to have taken his failure at World Cup to heart and has been in irrepressible form. He has scored 20 goals in 15 games already this season, 15 of the 20 coming in the last nine games.
The El Classico is not just the battle between two great teams, but also between two great players. Cristiano Ronaldo has also scored 20 goals so far this season, from 19 games, and that particular battle, between Messi and Ronaldo, will be a special prospect.
However, Barca have stars all over the field. Their summer acquisition - David Villa - has had a decent start to his Catalan career, while the likes of Xavi and Iniesta can change the outcome of any game. Real will require Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira to be focussed throughout the game, to contain the Spanish pair.
Barca come into the game after a 3-0 victory against Panathinaikos in the Champions League and an 8-0 mauling of Almeria last weekend which included a Messi hat-trick. Barca have been defensively solid too conceding just 8 goals so far this season.
A Barca man through and through, Pep Guardiola will relish the tactical battle with his counterpart Mourinho. Pep, in his pre-match conference, revealed that he will look to break the Madrid defence with an attacking display.
He said, Madrid are not just spectacular, they are also physical, effective, quick and direct while remaining well-organized and very strong.
Mourinho knows that we will go out to attack and they will do it when they can. If we lose, I want to be able to say 'we've been Barca'. Madrid have always been a good team and always will be. I anticipate how Real Madrid are going to play and they know how we are going to play. There will be no surprises.
Madrid are the team with the best counter-attack in the world. They've done this for a long time and for a team to play on the counter the other has to attack. And this is going to be us.
It's going to be a beautiful game. We aren't going to change anything, we will protect ourselves but we aren't going to play deeper. I don't want that and it will also send a message to the players that I'm scared. We are going to do the same as always. We will try to win and do it in the best way possible.
Guardiola has an impressive record against Madrid, winning all the four games he has faced them as manager. However, this Madrid side seems special, and Pep will be wary. One thing is for certain, the match will be a spectacle and any soccer, or sports lover for that matter, wouldn't miss it.
Team News -
Gabriel Milito is Barcelona's only injury concern and Pep Guardiola has an otherwise fully-fit squad.
However, Mourinho has Kaka and Fernando Gago out injured, but is boosted by the recoveries of Ricardo Carvalho, Khedira and Higuain from their respective injuries.
Table Position -
Going into the game, Real head the table by one point, and a loss will allow Barcelona to go into a two-point lead at the top. A loss for Barca means they will sit at second on 31 points while Real increase their lead at the top to four points.
It is the El Classico. It doesn't get more difficult to predict a football match. Barca have home advantage, and that may prove effective against Real. However, Madrid are one of the best and fastest teams on the counter, and the Catalans have to be on their guard with every attack they make. Both teams are super powers and it looks likely that they'll cancel each other out.