Barcelona, Real Madrid prepare to battle in season’s final El Clasico
La Liga and King’s Cup champions Barcelona will be flying high when they host Real Madrid on Sunday in the ‘Clasico’ but their arch rivals will be feeling equally smug after reaching the Champions League final for a third year in a row.
After clinching a seventh league title in 10 years last Sunday, Barcelona’s only incentive is to finish the La Liga season without losing a game.
Third-placed Real’s motivation, however, is to leapfrog Atletico Madrid, who hold a four-point advantage but have played one more game.
There will be plenty of tension on the pitch in Sunday’s eagerly anticipated fixture.
Barca will be keen to further cement their domestic hegemony over Madrid and extend their gap over them to 18 points, which would be the biggest gap they have ever held over their rivals.
Zinedine Zidane’s side can avenge December’s humiliating 3-0 home defeat by Barca by snapping the Catalans’ Liga record of 42 games without defeat.
Zidane has already angered Barca by declaring his side will not give the newly crowned champions a guard of honour before kickoff, a gesture the Catalans did carry out in 2008 when Madrid had won the title.
Sunday’s game is also the first ‘Clasico’ since 2008 to take place after the title race has been decided.
Real have had a disappointing Liga campaign and could finish third for the first time in four years. But their domestic woes have not stopped them from storming into the Champions League final with a 4-3 aggregate win over Bayern Munich. In contrast Barca crashed out of Europe to AS Roma in the quarter-finals.
Madrid will play Liverpool in the final in Kiev on May 26, when they will be targeting a record-extending 13th European Cup. They will also be looking to become the first team since Bayern Munich in 1976 to win the trophy three years in a row.
Madrid captain Sergio Ramos believes winning Europe’s top prize again could trump Barca’s achievements on the domestic front.
“Barca have had a great year, they have won two trophies and they deserve credit for that but winning the Champions League is equivalent to those two or even more,” Ramos said.
He also confirmed his side would follow Zidane’s orders to deny their rivals a guard of honour.
“What Zidane says is gospel. We’re making too much fuss out of all this. Barca have the title, which is what they wanted, but there will be no guard of honour, full stop,” he said.
Elsewhere, Valencia can seal their return to the Champions League by clinching fourth spot if they win at local rivals Villarreal on Saturday.
Getafe, Sevilla, Girona and Real Sociedad will continue to fight for seventh spot and a place in next season’s Europa League, with three points separating the four teams.
Malaga, Las Palmas and Deportivo La Coruna have already been relegated.
Enter your email to get our daily newsletter in your inbox
- FC Goa attacked Dessai through Saviour Gama before twinkle-toed Jorge Ortiz tested him. By the 17th minute, Dessai had been caught out thrice; the last time because of a poor pass which Alexander Jesuraj intercepted needing a tackle from Vignesh Dakshinamurthy that could have been a penalty.
- Muller wouldn’t feature regularly that season but he went on to score in the Champions League knockout stages coming on as a substitute against Sporting Lisbon.
- Musiala has been making steady progress since he joined Bayern’s under-17 team from Chelsea in 2019. He has made 27 appearances for the first team, scoring four goals.
- Barcelona faces an even bigger hurdle next week when it visits Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League trailing 4-1 from the first leg. But the team can aspire to keep up its positive momentum in the Spanish league.
- The first leg, originally scheduled to be held at the Red Bull Arena in Germany, was shifted to Budapest after German authorities denied Liverpool entry into the country due to Covid-19 protocols.