Barca des­per­ate to break Madrid’s un­beaten streak

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MADRID:

Barcelona are the more des­per­ate side as Real Madrid visit Cat­alo­nia to­day for the first El Cla­sico of the sea­son boast­ing a six-point lead at the top of La Liga. Madrid have won 15 more points in all in La Liga un­der the guid­ance of Zine­dine Zi­dane since the sides last met in April and are rid­ing a 31-game un­beaten run in all com­pe­ti­tions.

“On Satur­day we have more to play for than Madrid, they can lose, we can’t,” said Barcelona de­fender Ger­ard Pique. Barca are off to their worst league start in nine sea­sons. How­ever, coach Luis En­rique be­lieves much of the me­dia crit­i­cism of his side has been overblown, cit­ing the in­sti­tu­tional cri­sis that Barca over­came in the Jan­uary his de­but sea­son in 2015 to win the tre­ble. “We re­main favourites for all the ti­tles, but it is ev­i­dent we have to im­prove,” said En­rique. “We lack con­sis­tency, but don’t ex­ag­ger­ate. In my first sea­son you (the me­dia) ex­ag­ger­ated and we ended up win­ning the tre­ble.”

The big­gest match in club foot­ball is ex­pected to cap­ture an au­di­ence of 650 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures re­leased by La Liga.

“I am not go­ing to say it is just an­other game, it is a very im­por­tant match, it has a spe­cial mean­ing .... a spe­cial taste,” Real pres­i­dent Florentino Perez told AFP. “No one hides that is has a world­wide im­pact, it is seen by mil­lions of peo­ple across the world, like the World cup fi­nal.”

Yet, the com­posed Zi­dane re­fused to ac­cept that a first Liga ti­tle in five years would be Madrid’s to lose should they bag vic­tory at the Camp Nou.

“I am not think­ing about the con­se­quences,” he said af­ter giv­ing a goalscor­ing de­but to his son Enzo in Madrid’s 6-1 Copa del Rey thrash­ing of Cul­tural Leonesa on Wed­nes­day. “We are think­ing about pre­par­ing well for the game, and, what­ever hap­pens, it will not be de­ci­sive.”

Both sides are blighted by in­jury con­cerns. Madrid will be with­out Gareth Bale with the Welsh­man now set to miss up to four months af­ter an an­kle op­er­a­tion, whilst Toni Kroos is also side­lined by a bro­ken foot. Tough tack­ling mid­fielder Casemiro made his first ap­pear­ance in two months in mid­week and could come into con­tention to part­ner the Croa­t­ian duo of Luka Mo­dric and Ma­teo Ko­vacic.

— AP

SANT JOAN DESPI: FC Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, left, con­trols the ball dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion at the Sports Cen­ter FC Barcelona Joan Gam­per in Sant Joan Despi, Spain, yes­ter­day. FC Barcelona will play against Real Madrid to­day in a Span­ish La Liga soc­cer match, dubbed ‘el cla­sico’.

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