It is 18 years since John Aloisi walked onto Madrid's intimidating football fortress - the Santiago Bernabeu - and did what only one Australian before him had managed, scoring a goal that will live long and large among the collection of priceless football moments in his memory.
Clad in the colours of the Pamplona club for which he became a crowd favourite - Osasuna - Aloisi beat Madrid favourite Iker Casillas with a bullet header, etching his name alongside that of Mark Viduka, as just the second Australian to score against Los Blancos in front of their home crowd.
Osasuna lost 2-1 on the day, but scoring a goal at one of football’s most iconic grounds is something the 43 year-old will never forget.
“It’s quite an intimidating stadium because when you walk in you can just sense the history of what they’ve achieved,” Aloisi recalled. “And then you walk out on the pitch and there’s a rush of excitement. You look up and it feels like the stands are never-ending.”
“It’s some sight, it’s probably the best pitch I have every played at.”
Aloisi has also tasted victory at the Bernabeu, a historic 3-0 win for Osasuna in 2004 and the scathing backlash which Real Madrid players received from their home crowd is what stuck with the striker.
“We scored quite early in the first half and then straight away their fans got on their back,” Aloisi said.
The 43 year-old remembered the scores of fans who cleared out before full-time, and those who stuck around whistles and waived their white handkerchiefs in disgust when the final whistle blew.
“They can do that very easily. It’s a tough place for their own team when they’re not doing well.”
If Santiago Solari's side concedes an early goal on Sunday morning (AEDT) Aloisi believes the home ground ‘advantage’ could turn ugly.
“Real Madrid supporters are very hard on their own team. When I was playing at Osasuna we weren’t expected to get a result there or even come close to beating them and their fans get on their backs quite quickly.”
Real Madrid sits nine points of its fierce rival heading into El Clasico, and anything short of victory would surely end its dwindling title hopes.