It's El Clásico time!
It is that time of the year when football fans from across the world, irrespective of their nationalities and the clubs they otherwise support, will line up in front of television sets eager to watch two of the world's most glamorous, powerful and successful clubs go toe-to-toe and slug it out for the bragging rights!
This is FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid C de. Futbal!
After some massive wins through the season, the two clubs came crashing back to earth in their midweek Champions League (first leg) semi-final games with defeats to Chelsea (Barcelona were beaten 0-1) and Bayern Munich (Real Madrid were beaten 1-2).
It need hardly be said that neither manager would have wanted this match to be sandwiched between European fixtures, particularly with both teams needing improved performances in the second legs to turn their respective deficits around. So important is this fixture in the annual football calendar in Spain that it is usually arranged with a full week's break for both sides - but not this time. However, the toll on the players aside, the game could not have been better scheduled to establish, once and for all, the true depth of players and character of each club.
Real Madrid have seen their ten point lead at the top of the table reduced to four and defeat on Saturday will see that once seemingly insurmountable lead reduced to just one - an unthinkable situation. Madrid boss Jose Mourinho will also have his eye on a trip to Bilbao's San Mames stadium that will follow the second leg against Bayern.
Meanwhile, Barcelona head into this tie on a magnificent 11-match winning streak in the league. They did lose against Chelsea in midweek but that was a little harsh considering they had nearly 80 percent of the possession and created many more chances than Chelsea. The Barca boss, Pep Guardiola, has turned the pressure up on his counterpart at the Santiago Bernabeu, saying the title is Madrid's to lose rather than Barca's to win.
Team News: Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez is a doubt for this match, after picking up a knock in midweek. However, apart from Sanchez, Guardiola has no fresh injury issues although striker David Villa, wing-back Eric Abidal and defender Andreu Fontas remain long term absentees. Centre-back Gerard Pique is fit again and should walk straight in to the starting line-up.
For Real Madrid, midfielder Xabi Alonso is available after serving a domestic ban but defender Ricardo Carvalho and anchorman Lassana Diarra are not fit for this clash. Mourinho might be pondering over recalling Brazilians Kaka and Marcelo into his starting line-up.
Facts: Barcelona are on an unbeaten streak of 54 home games in all competitions, which is the second highest in their history. The record is 73 matches - achieved between 1973 and 1976. Meanwhile, Real Madrid are on an 18-match unbeaten run in the league. Their last defeat was a 1-3 loss at the Santiago Bernabeu when the Catalans visited them in December.
Real Madrid are yet to register a league win against Barcelona since Guardiola became the coach in 2008. They have lost six of the seven meetings.
Probable Starting Line-up
Barcelona: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Puyol, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Pedro, Messi
Real Madrid: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Alonso, Khedira, Ozil, Di Maria, Ronaldo, Benzema
Prediction: Barcelona 3 - 1 Real Madrid
Barcelona have to win as even a draw will not help them. Equally, Madrid cannot afford to lose the game - not only because of the impact on their lead at the top of the table but also because it could severely de-motivate them for the Bayern game. However, a draw will be a satisfactory outcome for the visitors.
In the final analysis, however, Real have defeated Guardiola's Barcelona only once in 14 attempts and they are highly unlikely to improve on that record this Saturday, with 100,000 Catalans screaming for their blood.
Expect a special performance from Leo Messi, he likes these big nights in Catalonia.