My life as a Madridista began a decade ago when me and some friends descended on the Bernabeu via a night sleeping in a car at Luton Airport, flying easyJet, and staying at probably the cheapest hostel in Madrid. We promptly lost our keys for the safe in our room and had to borrow money off a very friendly owner...but it was all worth it.
Straight to the Bernabeu we went, jaws as wide as the shark himself when we entered the stadium for the very first time, and it was then that I fell in love with the place and the club. It felt like the centre of the universe, certainly the centre of the footballing universe. I'd been to other big stadiums before - the Camp Nou, Wembley, Stade de France, Old Trafford to name but a few, but this was different.
As it was, we spent hours amazed by the tour, went back to watch a match the following day (v Malaga if my memory serves me correctly, Roberto Carlos scoring a screamer of a free-kick, typically) and even went out to watch the squad train and get autographs - all that is, except a certain Mr Beckham who we saw leave promptly in his 4x4, funnily enough around the time he was involved in, shall we say, off-the-field problems.
I've since been back numerous of times to watch games, and (this ties in nicely) will be back in the Spanish capital this weekend to see Jose Mourinho's men take on Real Betis.
So, on to the Primera Division clash with Betis, a side who've been a bit of a surprise package so far this season, riding on the crest of a wave following last season's promotion back to the top flight. Betis are one of those teams that just belong in the top flight - they have the history, they have the city, they have the ground and the fan base. From me, at least, they're welcome back into the big time with open arms.
The Béticos made a scintillating start to the season, winning all four of their opening matches and looking down on Madrid and Barcelona. Of course, it was never going to last but at least they've somewhat stamped their authority already this season in La Liga to show that they won't be making a swift return to the Segunda Division. They come into the weekend game at the Bernabeu on the back of defeats to Getafe and Levante and worrying what may come against a free-scoring Los Blancos side.
It'll certainly be interesting to see how Roque Santa Cruz gets on there during his loan spell from Manchester City. I fancy Santa Cruz to do well there and he'll be one of, if not the, biggest threats for the Madrid defence to deal with.
The man everyone will want to see though, for a change, will be on-song Argentina forward Gonzalo Higuain. A hat-trick for Argentina during the international break, following hot-on-the-heels of his treble for Los Blancos at Espanyol last time out, has made him hot stuff at the moment and Madridstas will be looking for more of the same this weekend. Karim Benzema is likely to be given another week to recover, although he could feature against his former club Lyon in the Champions League in midweek, meaning Higuain can't take his foot off the gas if he wants to keep his place. He'll be looking for more goals, and that'll make it very interesting on Saturday night.
Will Cristiano mind having the limelight shone away from him? Of course, he's always in the limelight, but he might want to take a bit of it away from Gonzalo this weekend. He scored for Portugal in their 2-1 defeat against Denmark on Tuesday night and he'll be looking to get back on the goal trail in La Liga after missing the boat at Espanyol.
The Andalusians will put up plenty of fight at the Bernabeu this weekend, make no mistake, but I can't see anything beyond a Madrid win. With the international matches now done with for this year, Mourinho and his men can now get on the charge in La Liga and the Champions League for the rest of 2011 and they'll be looking to start that straight away against Betis.
While I'm in Madrid this weekend I'll also be taking in the Rayo v Espanyol game on Sunday lunchtime and I can't wait. It'll be quiet a difference going from the towering Bernabeu in the business district of the city to the suburbs and the 15,500 seater stadium of Rayo - it's going to be some experience.
I can't wait to get back and start writing the blog 'properly' from next week. Feel free to comment and get in touch. You can also view extra Madrid content on my personal Madrid blog at http://www.therealdealblog.co.uk, although both blogs will, of course, have exclusive content. Hopefully we'll be talking about three points for Los Blancos and another comfortable Champions League victory.