x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Victory is all that matters to Barcelona against Real Madrid

Andy Mitten says there is no danger of Barcelona playing for a cagey draw at the Bernabeu in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final.

Real Madrid have not been in a better position since Pep Guardiola took charge of a Barcelona side which needed renewing in 2008. Real are top of the league with a five-point gap over their rivals.

They go into tonight's first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-final against Barca as holders. They are at home and bolstered by sabre-rattling headlines which have hailed them champions elect.

Eighty thousand fans (and just 600 from Barcelona) will sing "Hala Madrid" and "Ole!" at Jose Mourinho.

Yet there is a problem: Real are not as good as Barcelona. Whenever the two teams meet, Barca usually triumph. They do not go to the Bernabeu looking for a cagey draw, they go for a win and that is what they usually get.

Since silencing crowing Real fans last month, Barca have been crowned world champions and their players have been feted with individual awards, including Lionel Messi's third consecutive Ballon d'Or.

Barcelona are the top dogs - and yet they are now underdogs for the league.

They have dropped too many points away from home in enthralling encounters which go against the perception that the Primera Liga is predictable.

If that was so, the planet's best side would not have been held more times on their travels than they have managed to win in the league this season.

If Barcelona were to repeat their form in the second half of the season they would finish with 82 points. They got 96 last season, 99 in 2010 and 87 in 2009.

Real are a great side, probably the world's second best. They are Spain's "winter champions" - the league leaders at he halfway stage - and have won eight of their 10 away games.

They are playing well, have scored eight more goals than Barcelona and 35 more than Valencia in third place. They have three players in the top 10 of the goalscorers chart to Barca's one.

They are probably going to win the league and yet Barcelona will not be too concerned so as long as they become the first team to retain the European Cup since AC Milan in 1989 and 1990.

Of course Barca would like to win the league, but they are also looking at the bigger picture. That and beating Real whenever they meet, like tonight.

 

sports@thenational.ae

 

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