Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 September 2020

Clasico distraction biggest concern for Barcelona and Real Madrid this weekend

Real Sociedad and Valencia pose immediate threat before December 18 showdown

Barcelona have been in fine form across competitions. EPA
Barcelona have been in fine form across competitions. EPA

The focus of Barcelona and Real Madrid is most likely to be on the December 18 Clasico but they first have to tackle the weekend La Liga matches before they can start dreaming about the big match.

Barcelona are away at fourth-placed Real Sociedad on Saturday while Real take on a rejuvenated Valencia, who have won three games in a row and defeated Ajax in Amsterdam to win their group in the Champions League, on Sunday.

While Barcelona and Real Madrid had already qualified for the Champions League and thus had the luxury of rotating players in midweek, they need to up the ante ahead of the crunch game at Camp Nou. But they also can't afford to look too far ahead because of the dangers right in front of them.

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, who has 14 goals including two hat-tricks in his last 11 matches.

On the other hand, Zindeine Zidane's team have won nine out of their last 12 games. While that record might not be as imposing as that of Barcelona, they have been a lot more convincing. In their last 10 matches, Real have scored 28 times and conceded only five.

Victory over the weekend might therefore be expected but both teams won't be taking it easy.

Under Albert Celades, Valencia are showing signs of a resurgence, winning six of their last eight. The two defeats were due to a last-minute goal against Real Betis and numerous chances missed against Chelsea.

Moreover, at Mestalla they have lost only once in their last five matches with Real Madrid.

Real Sociedad, meanwhile, have arguably been the most entertaining team to watch this season. They will look to attack Barcelona who have been proven vulnerable against sides with pace.

Moreover, the political unrest around the Clasico will be a factor. Catalan independence demonstrations are expected at Camp Nou with fears of another postponement.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu insisted the match will not be postponed again. However, the players might not be completely at ease since they have families and friends in the city.

Messi had earlier said he expects a strong Real at the Clasico.

"We expect a very strong Real Madrid," Messi said during the launch of his new Adidas Nemesis 19 boots.

"The have displayed consistency in the past few games in the Champions League. These [Clasicos] are always one-of-a-kind games, special games. It does not matter how the teams come into the match."

For now, it's important both sides focus on the weekend and not next week.

Updated: December 13, 2019 03:49 PM

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