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It's the Galaxy, not the galacticos, who face Barcelona tonight, but in many people's minds the two top Spanish clubs are intertwined.

By Andrea Canales

As I approached the training area for FC Barcelona, I could hear the excited chatter of the fans clustered around the fencing.

"I can see Iker," said one excitedly. "Casillas is standing by the goal."

I chuckled a little. Unless the biggest transfer of the season had suddenly and secretly taken place, Casillas was not going to be in California on the practice field at UCLA with the Blaugrana.

Later that day, team captain Carles Puyol attempted to deflect attention away from the age-old rivalry of the top two Spanish clubs by pointing out that there were other good teams in La Liga that Barcelona would have to be concerned about.

The assembled press stared back at him skeptically, not buying that line for a single second.

It seemed clear that even thousands of miles away from Spain, Barcelona can't escape Real Madrid.

Los Blancos are actually following the Catalan club to the U.S., though the teams will be on opposite coasts. Real Madrid will play a friendly versus DC United.

Tonight, though, Barcelona face the club whose name is a slight echo of Real Madrid's famous nickname, los galacticos.

The Los Angeles Galaxy actually claim one member who has lined up against Barcelona as a player for Real Madrid - David Beckham.

Of course, this off-season Real Madrid garnered a huge number of headlines by signing the man who had claimed Beckham's old number at Manchester United - Cristiano Ronaldo.

Real Madrid also picked up the star midfielder from AC Milan (where Beckham was on loan for the first half of the year) the Brazilian Kaka.

Those types of acquisitions are enough to take a bit of the thunder away from Barcelona, even in a treble-winning year, at least as far as publicity goes.

When the two clubs finally meet once La Liga action starts, it will in some ways be a clash of philosophies.

Though Barcelona has made some noise in past transfer markets, the club is also justly famous for developing players.

"We wouldn't be the team we are without la cantera," said coach Pep Guardiola, referring to the youth academy of Barcelona that developed players such as Andres Iniesta.

Real Madrid has brought some impressive players through the ranks as well, including Raul, but the recent signings seem to make clear that the academy is not as big a priority as winning in the here and now.

It's a bit of a chess match between the two clubs, and they dance together in so many comparisons of Spanish club soccer. Thousands around the world can probably name both clubs easily, but not another single club in Spain.

Supporters joust over who is the greatest, and a title loss stings all the more when the other claims it. That's partly why Fiorentino Perez at Madrid has thrown big money at the problem of not winning a title last season.

Now it's Barcelona's move, and they may be looking to stand pat. Then again, it's hard to justify any drastic change when the trophies have yet to collect any dust.

Many eyes of Barca fans will watch tonight's friendly with a bit of anxiety, wanting to be reassured by the sight of the amazing form, cohesion and teamwork that the players showed last year.

Some Real Madrid fans may check out the action too, just to keep up on the other half of the rivalry.

Others may have no loyalty to any soccer side, but simply tune in out of curiosity. Perhaps then a young UCLA student will learn that Victor Valdes stands guard in goal for Barcelona.

Andrea Canales is Chief Editor of Goal.com North America


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