MADRID, Spain – Whatever the circumstances, a Clasico will always be a Clasico. Due to the unique history of the match and the intense desire on the part of both teams to defeat their enduring rivals, matches between Real Madrid and Barcelona have traditionally garnered the most media attention.
The match on Sunday night was no different, although it was played at Real’s Valdebebas training facility instead of the Santiago Bernabeu and involved the “B” squads of Madrid and Barcelona. In the second leg of their third division play-off semi final against Barcelona Atletic (formerly Barca B), Real Madrid Castilla, the club’s reserve team led by iconic striker Raul, sought to overcome a 4-2 deficit.
Castilla and Barca Atletic rarely face off against one another, much less in a game of this significance, due to the structure of the Primera RFEF, the Spanish third tier. Giving the younger players on both teams the chance to experience Spain’s fiercest rivalry made this event even more remarkable.
In the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium at Madrid’s training facility, which has a 5,800-person capacity, more than 5,000 spectators jammed in, reflecting that. With Placido Domingo singing Real’s 2002 centennial anthem over the loudspeakers, it appeared to be a miniature Bernabeu prior to the game. Some of the cheers were taken directly from Madrid’s famous stadium, like the chorus for their legendary winger Juanito, who tragically passed very young, and the more acerbic “Corruption in the federation!” with reference to the Spanish FA.
Raul expressed his satisfaction at witnessing a full Di Stefano stadium, a sight he had yearned for throughout his years of involvement. Following the match, he remarked that there could have been an additional 3,000 or 4,000 spectators present, as the tickets had sold out. The former player’s excitement was evident, given the challenges encountered in filling the stadium in previous occasions.
Approximately 100 journalists were present in the press area, as opposed to the normal few dozen. President Florentino Perez took a seat in the directors’ box beside the first team’s assistant coach Davide Ancelotti, the goalkeeping coach Luis Llopis, and left-back Fran Garcia, Madrid’s newest acquisition from Rayo Vallecano and a product of these development programs. Theo Zidane, a midfielder for Castilla but not selected for the national team, watched on from a few meters away from where The Athletic was seated.
The two men who led their teams out are experienced Clasico players. Raul spent 16 years with Los Blancos and became a Madrid legend, while Rafael Marquez, manager of Barcelona Athletic and a great Mexican defender, played more than 200 times for the Catalan team between 2003 and 2010.
And throughout, there were indications of the two clubs’ unique playing styles. Castilla replied with ferocity and energy to Barca Atletic’s complex, tiki-taka football attempt at dominance.
One senior academy source, who, like the others referenced in this piece, chose to remain anonymous to protect relationships, had expressed confidence that Raul’s team could mount a comeback of the caliber that Madrid has grown to be known for.
After that, Raul made a few adjustments that had a remarkable result. Iker Bravo, a striker, entered the game in the 73rd minute. Five minutes later, he headed a cross from fellow substitute Gonzalo Garcia to tie the score on aggregate for Castilla.
Bravo was a product of the Barcelona development system before moving to Bayer Leverkusen and joined Castilla on loan last summer. Nevertheless, he took pleasure in his celebration with his old team. While his teammate Peter Gonzalez hugged a group of fans, he leaped over the advertising hoardings to hug someone in the crowd.
When the final horn sounded, he could unwind as additional celebrations broke out in the grandstand and on the field. Dotor sung the Madrid hymn “How can I not love you?” while being carried on the shoulders of Lucas Canizares, the goalie and son of the former Spain international Santiago.” over a loudspeaker. Defender Pablo Bravo was observed impersonating David Alaba during last season’s Champions League run by beating a drum and lifting a chair in the air.
The spectators sang to Raul, while the coaching staff carried Mario de Luis, the wounded goalie, in their arms. The Castilla manager then gathered his team back in the middle of the field for a display of teamwork.