Barcelona and Real Madrid face off with both looking over their shoulder

Nou Camp

Real Madrid and Barcelona play twice over the next five days, with a largely symbolic league clash on Saturday following tonight's Copa Del Rey semi-final second leg, but is the growth of teams like Bayern Munich threatening their dominance?

Whilst most would argue that El Clasico is the biggest match in domestic football, with the two best players in the world by a country mile lining up in teams chock full of stars, there might now be more discussion whether the two best teams in the world will be competing.

For the past few seasons, Barcelona have been the kings of European football, with Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi propelling them to two Champions League in the last five years. To counter that dominance Real Madrid enlisted Jose Mourinho to bring the best out of their own absurdly talented squad, with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the way to the league title last season.

Matches between the pair were easy to describe as clashes of the two best teams in the world, and that was true, even when neither claimed the Champions League last season. However the growth of German football, added to a resurgent Serie A and an already established Premier League is beginning to challenge the consensus that Real Madrid and Barcelona are the two best sides in the world.

In particular, Bayern Munich would be keen to challenge that status. Motivated by the disappointment of finishing runners up in all three major tournaments last season Bayern have been unstoppable so far this time around. They lead their division by 17 points, a margin even Barcelona cannot get close to despite their fantastic year in La Liga. More importantly Bayern have carried that form into Europe, where a 3-1 win at Arsenal demonstrated why they are favourites for the Champions League this season.

Conversely Barcelona and Real Madrid could easily both exit the tournament in the first knockout stage. Real Madrid, who were pushed into second in their group by another German challenger to the Spanish sides, Borussia Dortmund, take a 1-1 draw to Manchester United, whilst Barcelona look to overturn a 2-0 deficit against Milan.

Add in the fact that Pep Guardiola himself will join Bayern next year, and the German side could dominate Europe in the next few seasons just as Barcelona have done. Whilst both teams might view the Copa Del Rey as a lesser tournament compared to the Champions League, they should be taking the game tonight very seriously, as there might not be so much silverware on offer in the near future for Real Madrid and Barcelona.

images: ©, © tchacky

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