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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Barcelona

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Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

The 2023-24 season has largely not gone Barcelona’s way. A combination of injuries, poor form and inconsistent play saw them suffer a rough start to the season, handing arch-rivals Real Madrid a virtual head-start.

The UEFA Champions League was the only competition where they boasted a real chance of making a deep run, but their dream was crushed earlier this week in heartbreaking fashion after PSG tore them apart with an extra man.

Now out of all competitions, Barcelona return to action in La Liga where their chances of glory appear bleak as well. They take on Real Madrid on Sunday night at Santiago Bernabeu, but it is clear that the result midweek has dampened the excitement for El Clasico.

Of the two times they faced Real Madrid this season, Barcelona came out second-best on both occasions. With tomorrow’s game likely to be Xavi’s final Clasico as a Barcelona manager, it remains to be seen if the team can turn that around.

Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Barcelona.

Snapping back to reality

Everyone had Barcelona progressing past PSG in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. The Catalans were the bookies’ favourites, the dressing room seemed confident and it all added up to a positive atmosphere before the game.

What unfolded on the night, thus, was utterly devastating. Losing a game when outplayed is difficult, but losing after dominating because of a single poor decision brings a whole new world of pain.

The Clasico, in that respect, could not have come at a worse juncture. Xavi’s dressing room will likely be at their lowest, and facing Real Madrid at this point is the last thing the manager would have hoped for.

Barcelona’s test at Santiago Bernabeu tomorrow, thus, will be as much mental as it will be sporting. The Catalans are yet to win a Clasico this season, and there would be no better time than now.

The question, however, is can Xavi pull his side out of the mental abyss quickly enough? Or will Barcelona sink lower with an inferior display tomorrow?

The final chance

The league title race has been one-sided for a long time now in Spain. Real Madrid were in a direct tussle with Girona around the halfway mark of the campaign, but the Catalans failed to keep up the steam for long.

Will this be Xavi’s final match against Real Madrid as Barça coach? (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

Carlo Ancelotti’s side now boast 78 points after 31 rounds of La Liga and have an eight-point lead over Barcelona who sit firmly in second place.

With just six games to go after the Clasico, the title race is probably over for practical reasons given Real Madrid’s form. A win against Barcelona, however, will instantly seal Los Blancos’ status as champions.

Tomorrow’s game, thus, is Barcelona’s best chance to stay alive in the race and prolong the Merengues’ charge to the title. They will still need the men in white to drop five points in six games to have a chance, something improbable but not impossible.

“Tomorrow we have the chance to get back into La Liga. It happens to be the most important game of the season,” Xavi said in his pre-game press conference, acknowledging the same.

An opposition fearing none

Xavi rightly analysed Real Madrid’s confidence and monster mentality ahead of El Clasico, attributing their never-say-never attitude and undying belief to their successes in recent years.

“They have won many times because they are very good. I don’t believe so much in luck. I believe in work and in the team,” he said.

The manager’s comments, in brief, summarised the difference between Barcelona and Real Madrid and the reason why Los Blancos pose a serious threat.

While Barcelona collapsed in the quarterfinal, Real Madrid once again showed their mental prowess as they defended resiliently against a superior Manchester City for 120 minutes. They pulled through despite being the inferior side, and not for the first time.

The men in white have now lost just two games all season and are arguably at their highest point of the season. Clearly, the situations of both teams could not be more polarised, and it remains to be seen what implications it has on the game.

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