Blog Written by Justin Sherman (@JShermOfficial):
Real Madrid vs. Barcelona / April 23, 2017 / Santiago Bernabéu
Let’s face it: each and every Clásico is a must-watch affair. A rivalry full of hatred, politics, and some of the best players to ever grace the pitch, is enough to pique the interest of even the most neutral of futbol fans. This match takes even greater importance due to its timing, as Madrid face a murderer's row of opponents in April including Atletico, Valencia and at Sporting. This doesn’t even factor in any possible Champions League matches, provided they advance that far. Barcelona’s month doesn’t get much easier with matches against Sevilla, Malaga and the always tricky Catalan derby, against Espanyol. This month will go a long way towards deciding the champion of Spain, and no match will carry more weight than El Clásico.
Barcelona vs. Atlético Madrid / September 21, 2016 / Camp Nou
The first truly titanic match of the season. The league’s most aesthetically pleasing and efficient attack (Barcelona) takes on the most impenetrable and disciplined defense (Atletico Madrid). Atletico have more than proved their worth over the past few years but remain without a win at Barcelona since 2006. Diego Simeone’s men would love nothing more than to make an early season statement against the current title holders, while making more history for the Rojiblancos in the process. Barcelona will have something to say about that, as it was this same Atleti side that killed any dreams of back-to-back trebles, knocking Barca out of the Champions League in spectacular fashion. The match may not mean a ton relative to league standing, but it will go a long way in shaping the psyche of the clubs going forward in the season.
Sevilla vs. Real Betis / September 21, 2016 / Sanchez-Pizjuan
When Real Betis got promoted back to first division football last season most fans were ecstatic, while the select few that weren’t resided in the north end of the same city. The derby of Seville has been going on since 1915 and remains one of the fiercest and most passion-filled rivalries La Liga has to offer. Both sides will come into this season with new managers in Gus Poyet, and Jorge Sampaoli, respectively. Personnel has been vastly changed during the transfer window for both clubs -- with a combined 12 new players -- signaling a change in philosophy towards more of an offensive mindset that should make this matchup lively from the start. Hopes are high this upcoming season for both clubs, and this will be an early measuring stick of what to expect.
Atlético Madrid vs. Real Madrid / November 20, 2016 / Vicente Calderón
For years, the Derby madrileño was dormant. Real Madrid went 22 straight league games (11 years) without tasting defeat to their cross town rivals. But that all changed in the 2013 Copa Del Rey final, when Atleti finally broke through by a score of 2-1 to lift the silverware. Since that point, the sides have met 14 times (Liga, Copa, UCL) and have each won 5, while drawing 4. Unfortunately for Atlético, two of those losses came in absolutely gut wrenching fashion in the Champions League Final to further cement Los Blancos as the kings of Europe. League play has been a different story, as Real Madrid have not won a single match in the series in nearly four years, which just so happens to be the last time they were Spanish champions. Simeone has played the stepchild card to perfection, galvanizing a club and it’s fans to heights many believed didn't exist. Now, Zinedine Zidane must do the same for a club almost always fancied as favorites. Their chance at a league title may depend on it.
Athletic Bilbao vs. Málaga / March 5, 2017 / San Mames
No, you aren't drunk and this isn’t a mistake. It may not be a rivalry, but this matchup will be one to keep an eye on next season. You would be hard pressed to find a more even series anywhere in the world, as these clubs have met 26 times, each winning 8, while drawing 10. Athletic hold a 0.1 advantage in goals per match, making each encounter nail biting stuff. Málaga have been extremely active during the transfer window bringing in 9 new faces, including the criminally underrated Jony from Sporting, and Sandro Ramirez from Barcelona. After a slow start last year -- including a catastrophic ouster in the Copa Del Rey at the hands of Mirandes -- Málaga played well in the second half to finish a respectable 8th in the table. Athletic finished in 5th led by Mr. Benjamin Button himself, Aritz Aduriz, and his 20 goals. Both sides will challenge for the Europa League, and maybe even the Champions League with a bit of luck.