Barcelona and Real Madrid fans are set to watch the Manchester derby as another La Liga game. The Premier League has always been quite popular among the Spaniards but the arrival of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola to Manchester United and Manchester City respectively has seen the interest shoot up to a new limit. Los Blancos will mostly be supporting the Reds. Catalans want the former Bayern Munich boss to win. Nobody, from one part to the other of the country, wants to miss the game.
Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid will be playing at the same time than Mourinho and Guardiola face each other at Old Trafford for the first time. Barcelona and Real Madrid will host Alaves and Osasuna for their respective league encounters only hours later. Neymar could play his first game for the Catalan side in more than three months while Lionel Messi is a doubt due to groin issues. Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema may finally form the famous BBC along Gareth Bale this season after the Portuguese star and the French striker had recovered from their injuries.
However, the attention of the El Clasico fans and the Spaniards in general will largely be in a Manchester derby which will be played more than 1,200 miles away from the capital of Spain. Kun Aguero's ban or the form of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Luke Shaw and Ilkay Gündogan is almost as important in the Spanish media as the injuries of Messi and Ronaldo themselves. Many fans will watch the game live on television. Others will follow the highlights and and will discuss it through social networks. Hardly any will go to sleep without knowing the final result.
The love and hate which sparked Mourinho during his tenure at Real Madrid is still not forgotten. He left the Santiago Bernabeu more than three seasons ago but the Spanish press maintains its obsession with everything the Portuguese does, says and thinks.
Something similar happens with Guardiola. In Barcelona (not the Espanyol fans, of course) people love him for having built the arguably best team in the history. In Madrid, however, he provokes a fear hostility due to both his success at the Nou Camp and his fondness for the independence of Catalonia from the rest of Spain. Yet, in both cities everything he says, suggests or criticises quickly becomes trending topic and a good excuse to make a front cover.
Obsession reaches fever pitch
The obsession has reached the point that the four major sports newspapers in the country - AS, Marca, Mundo Deportivo and Sport – have now at least one journalist based in England covering the news of both Manchester Clubs.
Last season only Diario AS had two correspondents based in London to cover the Premier League. Since this summer Marca, Mundo Deportivo and Sport have also one journalist each in Manchester to cover the day-to-day comings and goings of United and City, of Mourinho and Guardiola.
El Mundo have Alberto Munoz while El Pais also sends, week-in, week-out one of its most notorious journalists (Lu Martin) to Manchester to update its readers on what is happening with the Red Devils and the Citizens. Cadena Ser, Cope, Onda Cero and Rac 1 and Catalunya Radio – two local Catalonian radio stations – are also covering what happens on one side and the other of the city regularly.
In total there are at least eight journalists (plust the two from AS in London) currently based in Manchester (Marca and Cadena Ser share correspondent in Alvaro de Grado while Cope and Mundo Deportivo also do the same with Dani Gil) to cover the day to day of what has already become almost like a second El Clasico for the Spaniards. Yet, only three of them (AS, Marca and Catalunya Radio) have got an accreditation to watch the derby in the stadium due to the high demand of applications.
In addition, Movistar, which are the right holders of the game in Spain, will also move three journalists from Madrid to broadcast the match live from Old Trafford. The first El Clasico of La Liga will not take place until 3 December. However, Barcelona fans and Los Blancos will have a sweet starter on Saturday.