Real Madrid’s temporary home will host this weekend’s ElClasico against FC Barcelona. Here’s how the ground became the unexpected venue for world football’s biggest club rivalry.
This weekend’s ElClasico clash in LaLiga Santander between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona (Saturday April 10th – 9pm CET) will be played at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium, part of Real Madrid’s state-of-the-art Valdebebas training complex.
The Di Stefano will be the 12th venue to host an ElClasico fixture. The very first was in the Copa de la Coronación, held in 1902 at the Hipódromo de la Castellana in Madrid, a venue more commonly used for horse racing at the time. That was the only competitive ElClasico ever held there, while the other 244 have been split between the Santiago Bernabéu (98), Camp Nou (88), Les Corts (30), Chamartín (17), Mestalla (3), O’Donnell (3), Metropolitano (2), Velódromo Parque de Deportes (1), Vicente Calderón (1) and La Romareda (1).
A five-star stadium for the 182nd LaLiga Santander ElClasico
Real Madrid have been playing at the 6,000-seater ground, named after one of their all-time legends, ever since LaLiga football returned following the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with redevelopment work taking place Santiago Bernabéu during this time in which fans can’t be present at matches.
The stadium was opened in Real Madrid’s Valdebebas training complex in 2006 and until 2020 was best known as the home of the club’s reserve side Castilla, who have mostly played in the second and third tier of Spanish football. The Di Stefano has hosted a couple of ‘ElClasico’ fixtures in the past, but between the clubs’ reserve sides.
The stadium has state-of-the-art facilities, from undersoil heating to a large press area to environmentally friendly solar panels. The ground was already an excellent venue, yet the club improved the Di Stéfano even further as the first team moved in. Changes were made to assist LaLiga and UEFA’s broadcasters, changing some camera positions, while other structural changes were implemented in order to make the stadium as safe as possible during the coronavirus pandemic. This included the installing of substitute areas in the stands behind the dugouts, allowing social distancing, and alterations to the zones around the dressing rooms to minimise risks.
Real Madrid’s players feel very much at home at the Di Stefano, just a short walk away from the residence where they often sleep the night before early kick-offs. Zinedine Zidane knows the ground especially well, having coached Castilla before taking on the senior job in 2016. And it was club captain and icon Sergio Ramos who scored the first ever goal at the Di Stefano, against Stade de Reims in an inaugural friendly all the way back in 2006.
Now, 15 years later, the Di Stefano will host ElClasico, the 182nd match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in LaLiga history and the 246th competitive meeting between the two sides all-time.