With Real Madrid and Barcelona having a steep contrast in their league form at the moment, the upcoming El Clasico holds an immense level of importance for both sides. Los Blancos currently occupy second place in La Liga with a game in hand over table-toppers Real Sociedad. On the opposite of the spectrum, Barcelona are struggling to make ends meet, presently sitting in seventh place.
How have Barcelona and Real Madrid performed in the recent El Clasicos?
In the wake of Barcelona's downfall, Real Madrid have pounced on the opportunity to soar past their arch-rivals. As a result, the Blaugrana remain winless in their last four encounters. Barcelona's recent dominance in El Clasico, which was initially established by Pep Guardiola in 2008, is slowly starting to wear off with the club's depreciating form.
While Real Madrid have encountered transitional problems of their own, the inhuman form of Karim Benzema and the consistency of their midfield trio have kept their boat afloat. Subsequently, Los Blancos have reigned supreme in the most recent El Clasicos, winning three in succession. March 2019 was the last time people got to see a Barcelona win an El Clasico, reflecting their calamitous fall from grace.
With an abundance of talent in all parts of the pitch, it'll take days to just scratch the surface. Tackling one position at a time, let's take a look at five of the best goalkeepers ever to have played in the El Clasico:
#5 Victor Valdes (Barcelona)
Kicking off our list in fifth place is Marc-Andre ter Stegen's predecessor, Victor Valdes. After being thrusted into the first team due to Barcelona's consistent goalkeeping woes, the La Masia graduate quickly made the shot-stopping position his own. Valdes was especially impressive under Pep Guardiola, becoming an integral member of the Catalan's all-conquering Barcelona side.
The Spaniard always used to save his best performances for the biggest occasions, including the El Clasico. He participated in 28 clashes against Real Madrid, emerging victorious on 14 occasions.
Despite committing bizarre errors on certain occasions, he was famous for conceding a nominal amount of goals during his career. In his 13-year stint with Barcelona, Valdes managed to rack up 536 appearances, keeping a whopping 239 clean sheets in those games. One of the greatest players to have engaged in the El Clasico, indeed.
#4 Ricardo Zamora (Real Madrid)
Nicknamed El Divino, due to his 'divine' goalkeeping skills, Ricardo Zamora is a significant figure in Real Madrid's history. Having spent time with Catalan giants Espanyol and Barcelona, Zamora switched allegiances in 1930, joining forces with Los Blancos.
The Barcelona-born shot-stopper played a major role in establishing Real Madrid's supremacy early on, guiding them to their first two La Liga titles between 1931-1933. Zamora also faired well in El Clasicos, winning five out of the 10 matches he contested in.
Having won four titles during his stint with Real Madrid, Zamora departed Spain in 1936 to join Nice, where he eventually played his last ever game. Sometime after his retirement, the trophy given to the goalkeeper who concedes the least number of goals in Liga was named after him, confirming his legendary status.
Also read: 5 players Real Madrid should have never sold
#3 Juanito Alonso (Real Madrid)
A starter at Real Madrid for a mind-boggling 14 seasons, Juanito Alonso walks onto this list of the greatest El Clasico goalkeepers. While his record against Barcelona might seem a little underwhelming, having kept just three clean sheets in 15 El Clasicos, Alonso has a much better overall record with eight wins.
While Keylor Navas' three successive Champions League wins are indeed a rare accomplishment for a goalkeeper, he pales in comparison to Alonso's record with Real Madrid. The consistent Spaniard was a core member of the Los Blancos side that romped to an unfathomable five consecutive European Cup titles between 1955-1960.
Having represented Real Madrid in 297 official matches, a mysterious lung problem and a broken collarbone ended his career in the Spanish capital. The legendary goalkeeper succumbed to his numerous ailments in 1994, aged 66.
#2 Andoni Zubizarreta (Barcelona)
Widely regarded as the greatest player ever to appear between the sticks for Barcelona, Andoni Zubizarreta was a firm commander on the pitch. Zubizarreta was the most capped Spanish player for a brief period of time, amassing 126 appearances for his national side.
The fact that he is still the record appearance-maker in La Liga with 622 games, 23 years after his retirement, is a testament to his longevity. The Barcelona shot-stopper was also a hero for his side in El Clasicos, conceding 31 goals in 25 encounters with Real Madrid.
Zubizarreta came out on top in 10 of the aforementioned instances, losing nine El Clasicos. The level-headed professional retired at the age of 37, playing his last game for Valencia. He later returned to Barcelona as their director of football, a post that he has since vacated.
#1 Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
The undisputed number one choice at Real Madrid as well as on this list, Iker Casillas was an absolute legend during his playing days. The loyal servant of Los Blancos was a nightmare for opposition forwards, refusing to back down at the time of crisis. He had a similar showing in the El Clasicos against rivals Barcelona.
During his 16-year spell with Real Madrid, Casillas faced the Blaugrana a whopping 37 times. While he did end up on the losing side on 15 occasions, Casillas was instrumental in the 12 wins and 10 draws that Real Madrid mustered.
'San Iker', as he is fondly addressed by his fans, remains a highly respected figure. Despite their everlasting animosity, both sets of El Clasico fans still admire the legendary goalkeeper due to his invaluable contribution to Spanish football. A brilliant footballer and a humble person, Casillas will undoubtedly go down as the best shot-stopper in Real Madrid's history.
Also read: 5 players Barcelona should have never sold