Xavi Hernandez and his Barcelona The side can take an important step to win La Liga on Sunday – where a Clasico win over Real Madrid will take them 12 points clear of the champions.
The Catalans have not won the Spanish championship since Ernesto Valverde at the helm in 2019 and extending the advantage over their worst rivals in the second will almost certainly get it.
Madrid won the first La Liga Clasico 3-1 in October but Xavi’s side has been greatly improved since then.
The coach is keen to win the league title to prove the team’s growth, but for the club it will represent an early return. their spending spree last summer.
Despite their financial problems, Barcelona signed Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde, Raphinha and other players by selling future television rights in a move that some criticized for gambling and the club in the future.
The elimination of the Champions League groups, followed by the Europa League knocked out by Manchester United, proves that Barcelona still has a long way to go, but they have made great progress.
A 3-1 win over Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final in January in Saudi Arabia gave Xavi his first trophy as coach, and the performance was strong.
In contrast, when the teams met in early March in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg, Madrid had the better of the game, but Barcelona still won 1-0.
How the Catalans approach this Clasico is an important issue for Xavi to decide.
The fans at Camp Nou may not react well to a similar defensive model, and will expect Barcelona to do better.
It will be easier if the middle maestro Pedri fits well.
Without the Canary Islander, who has been important for the club and the country for 20 years, it seems that Barcelona cannot play football.
Pedri has been sidelined with a thigh injury for six games in all competitions and in his absence, Barcelona have won by relying on their solid defence.
Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior scored at the Santiago Bernabeu in the Copa Clasico and the latter was recorded by Ronald Araujo in the recent battle with Barcelona.
Xavi tries to choose the Uruguayan center-back on the right side against Madrid so that he can face the Brazilian.
Barcelona know that by shutting down Vinicius, Madrid’s attack is much less dangerous.
“For me he is the best in the world,” said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti after the Champions League win over Liverpool in midweek, backing Vinicius in the end.
However, Madrid may need to prove that they have other options if Vinicius is kept quiet.
The coach Benzema set up as Los Blancos beat Liverpool 1-0 on Wednesday to reach the Champions League quarter-finals, 6-2 on aggregate.
This is a strong demonstration that shows that the Spanish and Europeans who are in power can produce products when it is really important to them.
The chance to cut the gap on Barcelona to six points at the top of La Liga could revive the title, but the main record of the 14-time European champions is to maintain this is that cup.
“We have to continue with this rhythm, play like we played today, and I hope it’s like that in the Clasico, we have to win,” said Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, after defeating Liverpool.
Benzema is expected to be fit after attacking brightly against the Reds, but Barcelona are still missing his brother Ousmane Dembele.
To upset the Catalans, Madrid must manage something that La Liga has achieved only once all season – scoring against the team at Camp Nou.
Joselu scored a penalty for Espanyol in December and no player has scored from the opening game in the top flight this season at Barcelona’s stadium.
Espanyol’s Sergi Darder has pulled the strings for his team this season and is key to their bid to avoid relegation. His side face Celta Vigo on Saturday at home and Espanyol are a point above the drop zone, a must-win game.
19 – Pedri, who is expected to return on Sunday, leads La Liga for the most balls played
54 – No player has made more appearances this season in Spain than Celta Vigo’s Javi Galan
100 – Cadiz goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma was the busiest in La Liga with a century of saves.
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