Avoid­ing pre-Cla­sico pot­holes

The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport - Madrid

– Barcelona and Real Madrid could be play­ing to be first in La Liga over the Christ­mas break next Wednesday but both are at risk of pre-Cla­sico de­feats if their fo­cus wa­vers this week­end.

There are few tougher fix­tures in the league than Barca’s away clash at free-flow­ing Real So­ciedad to­day or Madrid’s trip to­mor­row to a re­vived Va­len­cia, who have won three games on the bounce and beat Ajax in Am­s­ter­dam in the Cham­pi­ons League.

Al­ready qual­i­fied in Europe, Barcelona and Real Madrid had the lux­ury of ro­tat­ing key play­ers in mid­week but as the em­pha­sis shifts to­wards their crunch meet­ing at Camp Nou, the dan­ger is that they un­der­es­ti­mate the tasks in front of them.

Both have hit their stride in re­cent weeks, pulling away from the chas­ing pack while leav­ing be­hind early-sea­son bumps that had placed the fu­tures of their coaches in doubt.

Barcelona have won 13 of their last 15 games and seven out of their last seven, a run that has co­in­cided with the re­turn to form and fit­ness of Lionel Messi (pic­tured), who has 14 goals and two hat-tricks in his last 11 matches.

Madrid, mean­while, have won nine out of their last 12 If their own surge has been slightly less con­sis­tent than Barca’s in terms of re­sults, their per­for­mances have been more con­vinc­ing. In their last 10 games, they have scored 28 goals and con­ceded only five.

In nor­mal cir­cum­stances, both might there­fore have been ex­pected to come away from Anoeta and Mestalla with vic­to­ries but each have rea­son to be wary.

Off the pitch, the threat of po­lit­i­cal un­rest around the Cla­sico lingers, with Cata­lan in­de­pen­dence demon­stra­tions ex­pected at Camp Nou be­fore and dur­ing the game next week.

Barcelona pres­i­dent Josep Maria Bar­tomeu called for calm this week and in­sisted the match would not be post­poned again. – AFP

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