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Hurtful Barca attempt to delay Madrid’s title charge in Clásico

Vaseline 1 month ago

BARCELONA – Barcelona must dust themselves off after their Champions League defeat to try to slow Real Madrid’s steady march towards the La Liga title in Sunday’s Clasico.

The Spanish champions can make a final stand by cutting Madrid’s lead to five points at the Santiago Bernabeu, even if their arch-rivals face an uphill task to defend the trophy with seven games remaining.

Paris Saint-Germain put an painful end to Barcelona’s European adventure on Tuesday, erasing the Catalans’ lead in the two-goal draw.

It won’t be an easy task for Xavi Hernandez to emotionally pick up his squad after that defeat. Some Spanish reports say the coach could leave his post after the match with reserve team coach Rafael Marquez a possible replacement.

Xavi said in January he would leave at the end of the season and despite strong form since the calls for him to stay, he has not changed his mind.

Defeat to PSG in the Champions League quarter-finals may have ended any chance of that, barring a miraculous comeback in La Liga.

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

Xavi’s first task is to calm any tensions within his squad after midfielder Ilkay Gundogan criticized defender Ronald Araujo for his early red card that cost Barcelona against PSG.

“I keep what I think to myself, I have codes and values ​​that I think should be respected,” Araujo told reporters.

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

“Madrid is our biggest rival and we have to change our mentality; we will do everything we can on Sunday,” Araujo continued.

“Mathematically, we still have a chance 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 played 583 minutes without conceding in the top flight – 53 minutes short of his best record in the league.

Now that Madrid have spent their life defending against City for 120 minutes of intense football, Barcelona may be able to take advantage.

“We will compete again on Sunday, we will not throw 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 was “very tired” but would find the strength to continue their title run.

“The Clasico is crucial for the competition,” said the Italian, who won La Liga once with Madrid in 2022.

In addition to their Spanish Super Cup victory over Barcelona, ​​Madrid also won the first Clasico of the season at the Olympic Stadium in October and they will want to make it a hat-trick.

Player to watch: Jude Bellingham The Real Madrid midfielder will make his Santiago Bernabeu Clasico debut after scoring twice for Barcelona in his first game against the Catalans earlier this season.

Key stats 0.58 – Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin has conceded the fewest goals per 90 minutes of any goalkeeper in the top flight.

10 – consecutive La Liga games in which Barcelona are unbeaten.

47 – Real Madrid have the best goal difference in Spain, having both scored more and conceded less than any other team. -AFP