For Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman, Saturday’s match in opposition to Real Madrid can have all the same old stress, star energy and significance of any assembly between Spain’s largest rivals. Just one factor will make this “clásico” rather less basic: The absence of the 90,000-plus followers that all the time fill Europe’s largest stadium for one of many largest video games of the season.
“Nothing has changed much. These are two great clubs who always have to play to win. The only difference is the lack of public,” Koeman mentioned Friday, trying again to the clásicos he performed in as a Barcelona defender within the early 1990s.
“That is the worst thing that can happen in a Barça-Madrid match,” Koeman mentioned. “Without fans, it is less exciting because they provide the atmosphere and make it more complicated for the referee. … We all need the fans. It is strange to not have anyone in such a huge stadium. In this type of game, the fans help the player on the field.”
1 / 4 of a century has handed since Koeman performed his final recreation in opposition to Real Madrid. In his six-year stint as one in all Barcelona’s prime gamers, he was recognized for his management and his memorable targets from set items. He scored fives targets in 14 video games in opposition to Madrid, with Barcelona successful six, drawing three, and shedding 5.
The free kick he scored in a 5-Zero rout of Madrid in 1994 is simply surpassed within the membership’s lore by the free kick he blasted house to provide Barcelona a 1-Zero victory over Sampdoria and its first European Cup in 1992.
Koeman recalled his encounters in opposition to Madrid, particularly the 2 targets he scored from the penalty spot in his first clásico.
“I have played plenty of clásicos and I remember the 5-0. I scored a pretty goal from a free kick,” he mentioned. “I also remember my first one, when I scored two penalties. I scored three actually, but the referee made me repeat the second one. The first clásico is always a bit more special than the rest.”
The metropolis of Barcelona, like the remainder of Spain, is struggling to maintain in verify a resurgence of the coronavirus. No followers have been allowed into stadiums of league matches for the reason that virus hit Spain, shutting down soccer, and most sports activities, from March to June.
Local well being authorities have to this point rejected the membership’s proposal to step by step introduce small teams of followers to see Champions League matches. No followers attended Barcelona’s 5-1 rout of Hungarian membership Ferencváros within the Champions League on Tuesday.
With Camp Nou empty aside from the gamers, staffs and a minimal of employees, followers may till just lately nonetheless collect in bars to observe matches. But all bars and eating places are at present shut in Barcelona as the encircling Catalonia area tries to sluggish the surge in infections.
Koeman gave no hints on his beginning line-up, saying that efficiency, not expertise, was the important thing for him to picking his gamers. He didn’t rule out that includes his two 17-year-old forwards, Ansu Fati and Pedro “Pedri” González. Both are a part of the rebuilding undertaking Koeman pledged to hold out as coach following the membership’s trophy-less 2019-20 season.
Madrid will enter the match after two straight losses, one within the Spanish league in opposition to Cádiz and the opposite within the Champions league in opposition to Ukrainian membership Shakhtar Donetsk.
Koeman doesn’t assume that can have any affect on Saturday’s recreation.
“I don’t expect them to give us as much space as they did against Cádiz and Shakhtar. We expect to see a Madrid that is much more compact,” Koeman mentioned. “(Madrid) is a great team, with experienced players who know how to handle pressure and how to win games.” For Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, the journey to Barcelona is a perfect likelihood to finish his group’s skid.
“I have always been critical of myself because that’s the driving force behind always getting better,” Zidane mentioned. “A clásico is a clásico, with two good teams going head to head. It’ll be a good match despite the situation and the empty stadium.”