Barcelona confident ahead of El Clasico

Barcelona lead the standings ahead of Saturday’s La Liga clash against Real Madrid, who return to Spain as Club World Cup champions.

Barca are eight points ahead of fourth-placed Madrid heading into the tie at the Bernabeu, with Atletico Madrid the closest challengers three points below in second place having played a game more.

“I don’t think a Clasico victory will give us the title,” said Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde. “Atletico are only six points behind.

“What we know is that this is a long competition, nobody will decide anything at this point.

“We’re heading into the game happy. We have a week of preparation left and are confident. It’s a tough game against a huge rival, but we’re eager to face them.”

Madrid recently defeated Brazilian side Gremio 1-0 to claim the FIFA Club World Cup trophy, leading the goal scorer in that final, Cristiano Ronaldo, to state that Barca should form a guard of honour ahead of El Clasico.

Both sides have performed the ritual to applaud the other’s success in La Liga or the Champions League, but Barca director Guillermo Amor ruled it out.

“We make it clear that we only do this when we participate in the competition,” Amor said after Barca beat Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 on Sunday.

“When we compete in the competition, we will do it but that is not the case. That’s the way it is.”