Real Madrid face a must-win encounter when they travel to Camp Nou to take on arch-rivals Barcelona in the famous El Clasico on Saturday night.
Los Blancos trail the Catalans by 10 points going into the match and their hopes of challenging for the title would be all but over if they fail to win this weekend. Even a draw will unlikely be sufficient as there are only seven games of the season left after Saturday’s match.
The previous encounter between the sides will still be weighing heavily on Real after they were thrashed 4-0 by Barcelona, and they will be determined to get their revenge.
Barcelona currently lead La Liga with 76 points, nine ahead of Atletico Madrid in second with Real Madrid third and would feel very comfortable entering the final stretch of the campaign if they can beat their rivals for the second time this season.
Both sides are packed full of attacking talent, but Luis Suarez could be the one to watch as he holds a special record for the Catalans this season: They have never lost when the Uruguay international has gotten himself on the scoresheet, while Lionel Messi is in line to score his 500th career goal.
The visitors will once again be looking to their talismanic striker Cristiano Ronaldo to lead them to victory. The Portugal international has contributed 28 goals and nine assists to his team’s cause in 30 matches in all competitions. In terms of form, both sides have looked unbeatable of late. Los Blancos have won their last five games in a row, including thrashing Sevilla 4-0 just before the international break, while Barcelona’s last defeat was in October last year in a run that is now 39 games long. However, they were held to a 2-2 draw by Villarreal before the break to end a run of nine straight wins. Catalan midfielder Andres Iniesta has bemoaned the timing of the derby clash after the two week gap for international fixtures, but is adamant it will not effect their performance. “It is not the best scenario, but it is a normal situation within the schedule we have,” said Iniesta. “It will not be transcendental. We know what we have to do and who we are facing. “A Clasico is always a different game, you can feel it in the environment. We want to win without paying attention to anything else.”
???? #RMCity Tomorrow… EL CLÁSICO Mañana… EL CLÁSICO ???? @cristiano ???? @lukam10 #HalaMadrid #Rn Clasico A photo posted by Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) on
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos revealed they were out for revenge after the embarrassing defeat they suffered in the last derby encounter.
“After the bad result in the first Clasico, football gives you the chance for revenge and on Saturday we’ve got the opportunity to play away against a great team like Barcelona,” he said.
“Football is difficult, but we’re keen to put in a good performance and it’s easier when you put your heart and soul into it and show character and application.
Ramos was struggling with a back injury, but is expected to be ready for the match. Zinedine Zidane has a full squad to choose from.
Barca welcome back Sergio Busquets (finger), Jordi Alba (ankle) and Ivan Rakitic (calf), but will have to make do without Jeremy Mathieu, who tore his meniscus on international duty with France and Adriano (hamstring).