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Following the disappointment of the Champions League exit at the hands of a powerful Juventus side, FC Barcelona turn their attention to the showdown against the league leaders in El Clásico (Sunday 8.45pm CET). Real Madrid are three points clear with a game in hand so, if Barça are to win the league, only a victory will suffice.
The Barça coach is unable to count on the suspended Neymar Jr, who the club have decided not to call up following the lack of a response from the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sports) concerning Barça's appeal over their rejected appeal. Jérémy Mathieu is out after failing to recover from an Achilles tendon injury and he joins the long-term absentees Rafinha and Aleix Vidal, who will travel with the squad to support them. Turan is fit and included, while Masip is left out and Aleñá completes the list.Therefore, the match day squad in full is: Ter Stegen, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Denis, Arda, A. Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Cillessen, Mascherano, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes, Aleix Vidal –travelling with the squad- Umtiti and Aleñá (28).
Real Madrid have some injury worries of their own, especially in central defence. Both Pepe and Raphael Varane are out and this means they only have two fit centre-backs, in Sergio Ramos and Nacho, available for the big match. On the other hand, Gareth Bale has recovered from a knock he picked up in Munich and has been included in the match day squad.
In his pre-game press conference, Barça boss Luis Enrique said that the game “is a final for us” and went on to state “there is no better place for a Barça win than the Santiago Bernabéu.” He added: "It is a decisive game with the competition nearing its end, it could almost end the league or leave the door open". While acknowledging the importance of getting three points, he also stressed that “our objective is to remain loyal to our style.”
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane emphasised the need for his team to stay focused: “We’re playing against a great side and we’ll need to start the game strongly and give it our all.” He also paid little attention to Barça’s recent setbacks: “If we believe that Barcelona’s elimination from the Champions League will influence the game, I think we’re wrong. We know we’re up against a very good team.”
Barça will be looking to put recent disappointments such as the Champions League quarter final exit at the hands of Juventus and the 2-0 Liga defeat to Málaga behind them. This should give the Catalans all the motivation they need to resurrect their title chances with a crucial away win.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, are in a strong position in La Liga, three points clear with a game in hand, and in the Champions League. Los Blancos will face Atlético Madrid in the semi-finals of the European competition having beaten Bayern Munich 6-3 on aggregate in the quarter finals.
If Barça are looking for inspiration ahead of Sunday’s game they need look no further than some of their epic victories at their arch rival’s home ground such as the famous 6-2 victory in 2009 and last season’s 4-0 victory. In their last thirteen visits to the Bernabéu the Catalans have won seven, drawn three and lost only three times.
Luis Enrique is looking to become the second Barcelona manager to win back-to-back La Liga games against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu after Josep Guardiola’s 6-2 and 2-0 wins in 2009 and 2010.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will face each other once again and even though the Argentinian hasn’t scored in the last six meetings with Real Madrid he is still the top scorer in the fixture with an incredible 21 goals. Ronaldo is third with 16.
The fierce rivals drew 1-1 when they met at the Camp Nou earlier this season (highlights; report), as the Catalans suffered a cruel late blow. They were denied a famous win as Luis Suárez’s opener was cancelled out by a 90th minute Sergio Ramos header.
The showdown will be shown around the world and you can find out where to watch it with our handy global guide. If for some reason you can’t get to a TV, don’t despair! You can always tune into our live English language commentary on Radio Barça via our website or follow the action on our official Twitter feed or our Facebook Live.
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