Hurting Barcelona bid to slow Real Madrid's title charge in El Clasico


Hurting Barcelona bid to slow Real Madrid's title charge in El Clasico

Barcelona forward Robert Lewandowski
Barcelona forward Robert LewandowskiAFP
Barcelona must dust themselves down after Champions League defeat to try and slow Real Madrid's steady march towards the LaLiga title in Sunday's Clasico.

The Spanish champions can make a last stand by reeling Madrid's lead in to five points at the Santiago Bernabeu, even if overhauling their arch-rivals with seven matches remaining to defend the trophy is a tough task.

Paris Saint-Germain brought Barcelona's European adventure to an end in painful fashion on Tuesday, overhauling the Catalans' two-goal lead in the tie.

Picking up his squad emotionally after that defeat will not be an easy task for Xavi Hernandez, with some Spanish reports saying the coach may leave his post after the game with reserve team coach Rafael Marquez a possible replacement.

Xavi said in January he would depart at the end of the season and despite a strong run of form since leading to a clamour for him to stay, has not changed his mind.

Defeat by PSG in the Champions League quarter-finals may have ended any chance of that happening, beyond a miracle comeback in La Liga.

La Liga table
La Liga tableFlashscore

If that is to happen it must begin in the capital against a Madrid side exhausted but jubilant after they beat treble-winners Manchester City on penalties on Wednesday to reach the semi-finals.

Xavi's first job is to calm any potential tension within his squad after midfielder Ilkay Gundogan criticised defender Ronald Araujo for his early red card which cost Barcelona against PSG.

"I'll keep what I think to myself, I have codes and values that I think have to be respected," Araujo told reporters.

The Uruguayan centre-back, who was also sent off against Real Madrid in January in Barcelona's painful 4-1 hammering in the Spanish Super Cup final, said his team would not throw in the towel in La Liga.

"Madrid are our biggest rival and we have to change our mindset - we'll go all out on Sunday," continued Araujo.

"We mathematically have a chance still and we have to fight for La Liga until the end."

Barcelona have not lost away from home in La Liga this season, while goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has gone 583 minutes without conceding in the top flight - 53 short of his best record in the competition.

With Madrid having defended for their lives against City over 120 minutes of high-intensity football, Barcelona may be able to capitalise.

"On Sunday we'll compete again, we're not throwing in the towel in La Liga," said Xavi.

"Let's see if we can put ourselves within five points (of Madrid)."

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said his team were "very tired" but would find the strength to continue their title tilt.

"The Clasico is crucial for the league," said the Italian, who has won LaLiga on one occasion, with Madrid in 2022.

As well as their Spanish Super Cup triumph over Barca, Madrid also won the first Clasico of the season at the Olympic Stadium in October and are looking to make it a hat-trick.

Player to watch: Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid)

The Real Madrid midfielder will make his Santiago Bernabeu Clasico debut, having netted twice at Barcelona in his first clash with the Catalans earlier in the season.

Key stats

0.58 - Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin has conceded the fewest goals per 90 minutes of any stopper in the top flight.

10 - consecutive La Liga matches in which Barcelona are unbeaten.

47 - Real Madrid have the best goal difference in Spain, having both scored more and let in fewer than any other side.

Follow Real Madrid v Barcelona with Flashscore.


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