Tag Archives: primera

AC Milan 2 Barcelona 0: Kevin Prince Boateng scores the winner

AC Milan 2 Barcelona 0: Forza Pompey! Former Premier League stars Boateng and Muntari strike with Messi off the pace

PUBLISHED:

21:36 GMT, 20 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

22:11 GMT, 20 February 2013

AC Milan took a surprise first-leg lead in their Champions League last-16 tie against Barcelona.

While Barca top the Primera Division by 12 points, Milan lie third in Serie A – but Kevin-Prince Boateng's controversial opening goal set the Italians on their way at the San Siro.

And Sulley Muntari's superb second put Massimiliano Allegri's side firmly in the driving seat ahead of March 12's return leg at the Nou Camp.

Here we go: Kevin-Prince Boateng, (left) celebrates after opening the scoring

Here we go: Kevin-Prince Boateng, (left) celebrates after opening the scoring

Double trouble: Sulley Muntari celebrates after firing home the second goal

Double trouble: Sulley Muntari celebrates after firing home the second goal

Muntari flashed an early shot over the bar from long range for Milan.

Philippe Mexes made a vital cleaance
at the other end to prevent Jordi Alba's cross reaching Pedro Rodriguez
and though the same defender then handled Dani Alves' delivery, Pedro
had already been flagged offside.

Stephane El Shaarawy's poor touch saw a
good chance slip away but resulted in a corner, taken by the prolific
young striker, from which Boateng shot just wide.

Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati
held Xavi's well-struck 30-yard drive and El Shaarawy tracked superbly
to the left-back position to break up another Barca attack.

Appeal: Barcelona wanted a free-kick for handball in the build up but Boateng did not care

Appeal: Barcelona wanted a free-kick for handball in the build up but Boateng did not care

Takeaway: Muntari's goal means Milan have a 2-0 lead to bring to the Nou Camp

Takeaway: Muntari's goal means Milan have a 2-0 lead to bring to the Nou Camp

Mexes collected the first yellow card
for tripping Lionel Messi and as Barca pressed, Riccardo Montolivo
prevented Pedro's backheel reaching Cesc Fabregas.

Boateng's cross eluded a sliding El Shaarawy before a goalless half petered out somewhat.

Sergio Busquets was booked early in
the second period after fouling Giampaolo Pazzini, moments before the
controversial opening goal.

Montolivo's shot took two deflections,
the second off the raised arm of Cristian Zapata, before Boateng fired
low past Victor Valdes. Gerard Pique was booked for protesting to
Scottish referee Craig Thomson.

Off the pace: Lionel Messi struggled to make any impact

Off the pace: Lionel Messi struggled to make any impact

Patched up: Carles Puyol was erratic as Barcelona struggled

Patched up: Carles Puyol was erratic as Barcelona struggled

Messi blazed an uncharacteristically
wayward free-kick high into the stand before Andres Iniesta almost
charged down Abbiati's clearance in the six-yard box.

Valdes saved Pazzini's acrobatic
volley but at the other end, Iniesta fizzed a drive a foot or so wide
and Xavi curled a free-kick just over.

Head to head: Cesc Fabregas, is fouled by Boateng

Head to head: Cesc Fabregas, is fouled by Boateng

Ecstasy: Boateng celebrates after firing past Victor Valdes and in to the corner

Ecstasy: Boateng celebrates after firing past Victor Valdes and in to the corner

Rolling around: Messi (left) and Daniel Alves (right) lie on the pitch

Rolling around: Messi (left) and Daniel Alves (right) lie on the pitch

But it was Milan who found a second
goal with nine minutes remaining as substitute M'Baye Niang and El
Shaarawy combined to set up Muntari, who gave their beautiful approach
play the classy finish it deserved.

Carles Puyol, sporting a huge sticking
plaster on his forehead after a clash with Pazzini, headed Xavi's
corner wide as Barca sought an important away goal.

But it was in vain, with Milan in fact
having the best chance during five minutes of stoppage time as late
substitute Bakaye Traore wasted a three-on-two break.

Rough and tumble: The best player in the world could not help his side as they stumbled to a 2-0 defeat

Rough and tumble: The best player in the world could not help his side as they stumbled to a 2-0 defeat

That'll do: AC Milan's coach Massimiliano Allegri looks on as his team put on a show

That'll do: AC Milan's coach Massimiliano Allegri looks on as his team put on a show

Fun night: Mario Balotelli smiles, next to his girlfriend, model Fanny Robert Neguesha

Fun night: Mario Balotelli smiles, next to his girlfriend, model Fanny Robert Neguesha

Balotelli with his model girlfriend

Barcelona lose to Real Sociedad after Gerard Pique red card

Barcelona stunned as Liga leaders unbeaten record unravels in Sociedad after Pique sees red

By
William Griffiths

PUBLISHED:

23:50 GMT, 19 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

01:17 GMT, 20 January 2013

Real Sociedad hit back from two goals down to end Barcelona's unbeaten Primera Division record in stunning fashion at the Anoeta this evening.

All looked to be going to plan for Tito Vilanova's visitors when Lionel Messi and Pedro Rodriguez put them 2-0 up within 25 minutes.

Not used to this: Barcelona kick-off during their 3-2 defeat to Real Sociedad

Not used to this: Barcelona kick-off during their 3-2 defeat to Real Sociedad

No you don't: Sociedad's goalkeeper takes the ball away from Lionel Messi

No you don't: Sociedad's goalkeeper takes the ball away from Lionel Messi

Get off the pitch: Gerard Pique (background) was dismissed by the referee

Get off the pitch: Gerard Pique (background) was dismissed by the referee

But Gonzalo Castro's brilliant strike gave Sociedad hope before half-time and then, after Barca had lost centre-back Gerard Pique to a red card, Castro's curling effort was deflected into his own net by Barca substitute Javier Mascherano.

That sent the home fans wild, but it got even better in stoppage time when Imanol Agirretxe poked Carlos Martinez's cross from the right past Victor Valdes to clinch a dramatic 3-2 win.

Best in the world Sociedad didn't care about Messi's reputation as they turned over the favourites

Best in the world Sociedad didn't care about Messi's reputation as they turned over the favourites

It started off so well: Barcelona went 2-0 up with goals from Messi and Pedro

It started off so well: Barcelona went 2-0 up with goals from Messi and Pedro

Barca had headed to San Sebastian having dropped only two points in La Liga this season – in October's 2-2 Clasico draw with Real Madrid at the Nou Camp.

Second-placed Atletico Madrid could move within eight points of the leaders if they beat Levante on Sunday, while third-spotted champions Real Madrid can get within 15 points if they overcome Valencia at the Mestalla.

Eyes on the ball: Tito Vilanova could do nothing as his side lost their unbeaten record

Eyes on the ball: Tito Vilanova could do nothing as his side lost their unbeaten record

Pep Guardiola agrees Bayern Munich deal

BREAKING NEWS: Pep's back! Guardiola snub for Chelsea as Barca legend agrees three-year deal with Bayern Munich

By
Paul Collins

PUBLISHED:

15:58 GMT, 16 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

16:16 GMT, 16 January 2013

Pep Guardiola has snubbed a move to the Premier League and joined German giants Bayern Munich on a three-year deal.

Guardiola has been linked with Manchester rivals United and City as well as European champions Chelsea since taking a break from the game at the end of last season.

Bayern bound: Pep Guardiola is reported to be joining the Bundesliga giants

Bayern bound: Pep Guardiola is reported to be joining the Bundesliga giants

The Spaniard has been spending most of his time in New York since calling time on a trophy-laden spell with Barcelona but will move to Munich to replace Jupp Heynckes, who is set to retire in the summer.

Guardiola was the most wanted coach in the business after creating arguably the best club side in the world in Catalonia.

He came through the ranks at the Nou Camp and served Barca as a player between 1990 and 2001.

What a signing: Bayern Munich confirmed the Guardiola signing on Twitter

What a signing: Bayern Munich confirmed the Guardiola signing on Twitter

Guardiola, who celebrates his 42nd
birthday on Friday, represented Spain 47 times and had brief spells with
Brescia, Roma, Al-Ahli and Dorados.

He took charge of his boyhood club in
2008 and won the Champions League twice, the Primera Division three
times, two Spanish Cups, three Spanish Super Cups, two UEFA Super Cups
and two Club World Cups.

Real Madrid take on Real Sociedad in La Liga

Mission impossible Madrid face daunting challenge to close 16-POINT gap on rivals Barcelona

By
John Drayton

PUBLISHED:

13:07 GMT, 5 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

13:33 GMT, 5 January 2013

Real Madrid will start what many believe to be mission impossible when the Primera Division restarts for them tomorrow.

Jose Mourinho's side take on Real Sociedad with the gap between them and leaders Barcelona standing at 16 points.

For even the most ardent Madrid fan, a successful title defence would appear to be impossible, with the Champions League now the primary focus.

Back in action: Real Madrid train ahead of their match with Real Sociedad

Back in action: Real Madrid train ahead of their match with Real Sociedad

According to defender Alvaro Arbeloa, though, they just have to carry on as normal.

'Real Sociedad are in their best form and it is going to be a difficult match, but we will go into it with desire and belief.

'I just want to win all of our matches from now until the end of the season.'

One sideshow will be who Mourinho starts in goal. There was uproar before Christmas when the Portuguese opted to sit out Iker Casillas and go with Antonio Adam playing in the loss to Malaga.

'The fans will support Real Madrid because they are fans of Real Madrid and not just of Casillas,' said Arbeloa, trying to play down any possible rows.

'It is important that they support the players, but also that they support the team. Whoever plays will have the support of his team-mates.'

Speculation: Jose Mourinho could leave Real Madrid in the summer

Speculation: Jose Mourinho could leave Real Madrid in the summer

The lure of a third Champions League title is thought to be driving Mourinho on this season, while the Copa del Rey still remains an option.

Arbeloa does not look at it that way, however, and wants every game to be treated the same.

'If this team wants to win trophies, it is impossible to do that without competing and giving everything in La Liga, and so it is difficult to give everything in the Copa,' he said.

'You cannot pick one day to play well and relax on other days.

'I would just aim to win all the matches. It could be that the Champions League is an easier objective than La Liga, but we are not a team that goes onto the pitch without giving our all every weekend and then does in the Champions League.

Rested: Madrid return after the winter break 16 points behind Barcelona

Rested: Madrid return after the winter break 16 points behind Barcelona

'We have to face all the challenges in our path and to do that you have to win in all the competitions.'

Sociedad head to the capital upwardly mobile. They are seventh in the table and have been producing some eye-catching performances under Philippe Montanier.

Some have backed them to spring a surprise and, although he will not call this a chance, Sociedad midfielder David Zurutuza does acknowledge there have been worse times to play Madrid.

'I don't think there is any good moment to visit the Bernabeu, but yes, if I had to choose a time it would be now, because they are missing important players,' he said.

How Nolberto Solano convinced Harrogate Town goalkeeper Mark Cook to move to Peru

From Harrogate to Peru… How Nobby Solano lured Mark Cook to a land of beaches, jungles and needles in unspeakable places!

|

UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 25 December 2012

Think of the more peculiar transfers in British football over the past 12 months, and Barnet signing Edgar Davids or Robert Earnshaw going on loan from Cardiff to Maccabi Tel Aviv might spring to mind.

But it’s fair to say the deal that saw Mark Cook, a goalkeeper with non-league Harrogate Town, join the biggest club in Peru takes some beating.

The link in this rather unlikely scenario is Nolberto Solano, the former Newcastle United midfielder, who until recently was manager of Club Universitario de Deportes, Peru’s most successful team and one that fills its 80,000-capacity Estadio Monumental for local derbies in Lima.

Tall order: Mark Cook is not certain he will stay in Peru

Tall order: Mark Cook is not certain he will stay in Peru

Solano knew Cook from his time as reserve-team keeper at Newcastle and a brief spell together at Hartlepool. Still, moving to South America was the last thing on Cook’s mind when he received a call while training at a gym in Newcastle in July.

'Nobby was in Peru,’ he recalls. ‘He was looking for a goalkeeper and wanted to know my situation. He said it was a hot country with nice beaches, nice weather and nice food. I thought, “that’ll do me!” ‘Obviously I was bit anxious about what Peru was going to be like — I knew absolutely nothing about Peruvian football — but I said yes straightaway even before I’d asked my girlfriend.

'Harrogate are a brilliant club but I wanted to be playing full-time football again.’ Within a month the 24-year-old Geordie had swapped the Blue Square Bet North for Peru’s Primera Division. However, even though Solano and his friends had taken care of the paperwork, they forgot to warn Cook about what to expect at the airport.

A far away land: Cook training with Nobby Solano in Peru

A far away land: Cook training with Nobby Solano in Peru

'Nobby’s very famous in Peru and knows everyone in Lima,’ says Cook, who played under Shay Given and Steve Harper at Newcastle. ‘So some guy tapped me on the shoulder and took me through passport control and customs. Visa stamped, straight through.

'But when I came out of the doors I was surrounded by about 40 reporters. I couldn’t see a thing because there were that many flashes.

'At Harrogate the most media attention I got was from the club’s website guy and one or two local papers.’

It was a similar story when Cook accompanied two of his new teammates to a signing session at a supermarket in Lima.

‘It was crazy. There were thousands of fans surrounding me and the other lads. I had to escorted back to the car by eight security guards which I found weird.’ North Shields-born Cook made his debut in front of 35,000 in a 1-0 defeat to Sport Huancayo at the beginning of September, the first of two Primera Division appearances for Universitario. The second, away to Cobresol, taught him what it was like to play at altitude.

A new start: Cook shows off his Universitario shirt

A new start: Cook shows off his Universitario shirt

‘It’s hard to breathe and the ball moves around really quickly because the air’s thinner,’ says Cook. ‘If you play outside Lima it’s like going to a different country. One time we landed and had to drive three hours through desert, another it was through a jungle.

AND HE’S NOT THE ONLY BRIT TO GO ON AN ADVENTURE…

ROHAN RICKETTS

After spells at Arsenal, Tottenham and Wolves, Ricketts embarked on a world tour in 2009, taking in clubs in Canada, Hungary, Moldova, Germany and Ireland before moving to Dempo SC in the Indian I-League in August.

GRANT HOLT

The Norwich frontman has spent most of his career at various English clubs, but in 2001 he made a brief trip to the far east. Holt signed for Singapore side Sengkang Marine before returning to play for Barrow.

LEE HENDRIE

Hendrie made his name playing in midfield for Aston Villa. But after a series of short spells at clubs in the midlands, he moved to Bandung in the Liga Primer Indonesia.

JLLOYD-SAMUEL

After playing for Aston Villa, Bolton and Cardiff, the 31-year-old signed for Esteghlal in the Iranian Pro League.

TERRY COOKE

After struggling to break through at Man Utd, Cooke moved to Manchester City before finding success in the MLS playing for Colorado Rapids. In 2010, he teamed up with manager Tony Adams at Azerbaijan club Gabala.

NICKY BUTT

The former Man Utd and Newcastle midfielder headed to Hong Kong in 2010, signing for South China FC.

ROBERT EARNSHAW

After falling out of favour at Cardiff, the Wales striker joined Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv on loan in September 2012.

PAUL IFILL

The former Millwall man plays his football in New Zealand. The 33-year-old left Crystal Palace and signed for Wellington Phoenix in July 2009.

The fans are the best I’ve seen and that’s saying something coming from Newcastle.
'Every game they sing for 90 minutes non-stop, jumping up and down behind the goal, setting off flares and banging their drums.

'Until then, the biggest crowd I’d played in front of was 4,000 for Newcastle reserves.’ Universitario finished the regular season in mid-table but faded after the Primera Division split into two separate leagues for the last 14 games.

'They make the rules up as they go along, to be honest with you,’ says Cook.

'I played about six or seven games altogether including friendlies but I only played twice for the first-team before injuring my finger which meant I couldn’t train for two or three weeks.

'As soon as you get any kind of injury they stick an injection in your bum to make you better. Every time. I don’t know what it was. If you were tired, they stuck a needle in your bum. To be fair, the next day you felt brilliant.’

It was after an exhibition game against fierce rivals Alianza Lima in Miami earlier this month that Solano told his players he might be leaving the club. Shortly after returning to Peru, he was gone.

Solano’s departure has cast doubt over Cook’s future at Universitario. He has flown home to the north-east for Christmas unsure whether he will go back for the new season which starts in February.

'I was massively shocked when Nobby went,’ says Cook. ‘He pulled them out of trouble because they were second bottom and struggling, and then all of a sudden it came out that he wasn’t going to be there any more. I’m not sure if he got sacked or he walked away.

'I still have year left on my contract but they’ve got a new manager in now so I need to speak with him and find out what their plans are for me.

'I’m just enjoying Christmas with my family and then we’ll see what happens.’ Cook and his girlfriend Sarah are already missing their 14th floor apartment in the upmarket area of Miraflores, just two minutes’ walk from the beach.

'I always wanted to be a footballer and I thought I would play in the Football League but nothing massive. It never crossed my mind I’d end up in a place like that in Peru.’

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova discharged from hospital

Barca coach Vilanova discharged from hospital after cancer op

PUBLISHED:

18:14 GMT, 22 December 2012

|

UPDATED:

18:14 GMT, 22 December 2012

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has been discharged from hospital after undergoing an operation on his parotid gland on Thursday.

The 44-year-old, who also had a tumour removed from his throat in November last year, now faces six weeks of chemotherapy.

A Barcelona statement read: 'The Barca coach has left hospital this Saturday after Thursday’s operation.

Out of hospital: Barcelona Manager Tito Vilanova has been discharged from hospital

Out of hospital: Barcelona Manager Tito Vilanova has been discharged from hospital

'Given the post-surgery progress, Tito Vilanova has been discharged from hospital on Saturday afternoon. The Barca coach’s operation on Thursday went as planned.'

Barcelona announced on Wednesday night that Vilanova would be undergoing another operation on his parotid gland after a return of the illness was diagnosed this week.

The Barca boss, who took over from Pep Guardiola in the summer, was expected to remain in hospital for three to four days following his operation.

Well wishers: Fans hold a sign in support of Vilanova

Well wishers: Fans hold a sign in support of Vilanova

The Primera Division leaders, who have enjoyed their best-ever start to a season after dropping just two points in their opening 16 games, named assistant coach Jordi Roura to take interim charge while Vilanova undergoes his treatment.

Cristiano Ronaldo fails to fire in Real romp but Lionel Messi hits 100 mark with brace in Barcelona win

Ronaldo fails to fire in Real win but Messi hits 100 mark with brace for Barca

|

UPDATED:

00:01 GMT, 18 November 2012

Cristiano Ronaldo drew a rare blank but Real Madrid still enjoyed a comprehensive 5-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Primera Division on Saturday.

It was unclear whether Real's first goal came from Karim Benzema or an own goal from the unfortunate Jon Aurtenetxe, but there was never any doubt about the result which took Jose Mourinho's side back to within eight points of leaders Barcelona, who had seen off Real Zaragoza earlier in the evening.

Rare sight: Cristiano Ronaldo failed to score

Rare sight: Cristiano Ronaldo failed to score

Sergio Ramos made it 2-0 after 30 minutes and Benzema made absolutely sure of getting his name on the scoresheet with a superb finish soon after, while Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira also got in on the act at the Bernabeu.

Lionel Messi had scored twice and set up a maiden Barcelona goal for Alex Song as the Catalan giants powered to 3-1 victory over Zaragoza.

Messi took his season tally for Barcelona to 22 in all competitions with strikes in 16th and 60th minutes while he also turned provider in the 28th minute to help summer signing Song open his account for the club.

Deadly: Lionel Messi scores third goal

Deadly: Lionel Messi scores third goal

Song's goal put Barca back in front after Zaragoza had drawn level through Paco Montanes.

Messi has now scored 78 goal this year, seven shy of Gerd Mller's record, and been involved in more than 100 goals for club and country.

Espanyol slipped to the bottom of the league after a controversial defeat at Valencia which saw them end the game with nine men.

Jonathan Viera gave the home side the lead on 15 minutes but Samuele Longo equalised on the half-hour mark and the visitors looked like clinging on for a welcome point.

Not impressed: Real boss Jose Mourinho

Not impressed: Real boss Jose Mourinho

However, Hector Moreno was adjudged to have handled in the area three minutes from time and after Moreno and Sergio Garcia were sent off for protesting to the referee, Roberto Soldado drilled home the penalty.

Another 11 players were booked in an ill-tempered game which will have done little to boost Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino's chances of holding onto his job.

Elsewhere, Malaga's winless streak stretched to four games as they played out a goalless draw against resolute Osasuna at El Sadar.

Goalkeeper hit by flare in suspended match between Independiente and Belgrano

Argentine match suspended after goalkeeper suffers injury from flare thrown from stands

|

UPDATED:

15:53 GMT, 16 November 2012

If you think scenes from the stands at football grounds in England this season have been disgraceful, just be thankful that they are not like those seen in Argentina.

A Primera Division match at Independiente on Wednesday had to be sensationally suspended after the goalkeeper from visiting Belgrano collapsed injured in his box due to an exploding flare thrown on to the pitch just yards from him.

DM.has('rcpv1972761869001','BCVideo');

Belgrano had taken a 1-0 lead three minutes from the end of the first half at the Estadio Libertadores before the incident shortly after half-time.

Nothing appeared to directly hit keeper, Juan Olave, who was left clutching his ear as he received treatment before he was forced to take cover again after more flares rained on to the pitch.

Targeted: Juan Olave was injured after a flare exploded in his penalty box

Targeted: Juan Olave was injured after a flare exploded in his penalty box

The volley of debris thrown down from the fans led to the match being suspended by match officials to protect the players' safety.

Referee, Saul Laverni said: ‘The match is suspended. It can't be played in these conditions.'

No result or scheduled completion of the match has yet been declared.

Independiente are struggling in Argentina’s top flight this season, sitting third from bottom after 13 games.

Belgrano by contrast have enjoyed a fine start to the campaign and would have moved into joint second had they held on to their 1-0 advantage.

Lionel Messi tops 300 as Barcelona hit five again to move clear at top of La Liga

Messi tops 300 as Barcelona hit five again to move clear at top

|

UPDATED:

22:52 GMT, 27 October 2012

Barcelona moved clear at the top of the Primera Division table for 24 hours at least with a thumping 5-0 win at Rayo Vallecano.

David Villa scored the only goal of
the first half before Lionel Messi gave Barca a clear advantage three
minutes after the break.

Goal machine: Lionel Messi scores his 300th goal

Goal machine: Lionel Messi scores his 300th goal

That was how it stayed until the final 10 minutes when the floodgates suddenly opened as Xavi and Cesc Fabregas found the target before Messi grabbed his second and his 300th career goal a minute from the end.

The late goal rush put the focus squarely back on closest challengers Atletico Madrid, who will attempt to draw level with Barca again when they host bottom-placed Osasuna on Sunday.

Real Betis moved up to fourth with a 1-0 home win over Valencia.

Salva Sevilla scored his first goal of the season on nine minutes after Juan Carlos' cross was not properly cleared by Adil Rami.

Adrian ensured the win, and his third consecutive clean sheet since taking over as the first-choice goalkeeper, when he kept out Roberto Soldado's late effort with his legs.

Sharp shooter: Cesc Fabregas, right, celebrates his goal

Sharp shooter: Cesc Fabregas, right, celebrates his goal

Celta Vigo claimed a 1-1 draw in their Galician derby with Deportivo La Coruna despite playing with 10 men for 40 minutes.

Mario Bermejo gave Celta an eighth-minute lead only for Juan Dominguez to equalise 21 minutes later.

Celta then had Gustavo Cabral dismissed for a second caution on 52 minutes but the visitors failed to make the extra man count.

Third-placed Malaga failed to close on the leaders as they were held to a goalless draw against struggling Espanyol at the Cornella El-Prat.

Real Madrid under pressure going into Barcelona showdown

Real already under huge pressure as they head into showdown with bitter rivals Barca

|

UPDATED:

14:58 GMT, 5 October 2012

There may only have been six games played so far this season but Real Madrid head into this weekend's Nou Camp showdown with arch rivals Barcelona knowing a defeat could cause irrevocable damage to the defence of their Primera Division title.

Madrid's sluggish start combined with Barcelona's red-hot form has already seen Tito Vilanova's men open up an eight-point gap on the reigning champions, and a home victory on Sunday in round seven would stretch that already sizeable advantage further still.

What a star: Cristiano Ronaldo scores for Real Madrid against Ajax on Wednesday

What a star: Cristiano Ronaldo scores for Real Madrid against Ajax on Wednesday

An 11-point gap may not be impossible for Madrid to overcome, especially with so much of the campaign left, but with Barca having only lost six league games in the last three seasons, the task that would face Jose Mourinho's side should they lose is clear to see.

Barca midfielder Xavi admits the benefits of a victory for his side would be huge, but insists the Catalan giants are not getting carried away with the situation.

He said: 'It would be a seventh successive victory in the league for us and a big blow to morale for Madrid. It would a very important advantage but we could still lose those points.

'Whatever happens there is still a lot of the season left. A win would give us a lot of confidence because it's our age-old rivals, and would make the league more difficult for them. They are three very important points but the league will not be decided in this match.'

The Spain international added: 'Regardless of the points difference anything can happen. This is Madrid. Last year we were also favourites and they won here.'

Under pressure: Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho will be desperate for his men to see off Barcelona

Under pressure: Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho will be desperate for his men to see off Barcelona

Madrid's 2-1 win at the Nou Camp in April saw Mourinho's side move seven points clear of Barca at the summit, and there was no way back for the Catalan outfit after that as their three-year reign as Spanish champions came to an end.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning goal in that game and he heads into this week's clash in superb form having struck hat-tricks in Madrid's last two matches against Deportivo La Coruna and Ajax.

Ronaldo has now scored 12 goals in all competitions this season, two more than his big rival at Barca Lionel Messi. Ronaldo's form is great news for Madrid after the Portugal international created a huge stir earlier this season after revealing he was 'sad' for professional reasons but without elaborating.

That incident was one of a numbers of issues that plagued Madrid at the start of the campaign, with Mourinho questioning the commitment of his players after seeing them win just one of their opening four league games despite downing Barca to win the Spanish Supercopa in the same period.

Happier days: Real Madrid players celebrate a goal as they claim a crucial win at the Nou Camp in April

Happier days: Real Madrid players celebrate a goal as they claim a crucial win at the Nou Camp in April

That poor form is the reason why Madrid are now playing catch-up, but victories in their last four competitive matches, as well as an 8-0 thrashing of Millonarios in the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy last week, means the reigning champions look to be finally hitting their stride.

Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso is now looking for another triumph this weekend, saying: 'It would be good to win and bad to lose, that's obvious. We know the (points) disadvantage that we have and we want a victory.

'We know the importance of the game and the significance of El Clasico and we will go there to win.'

Barca will definitely be without captain Carles Puyol after he suffered a dislocated elbow in midweek while his centre-back partner Gerard Pique has not played in a fortnight because of a foot injury.
Mourinho, meanwhile, should be able to select near enough his strongest team, with Kaka pushing for a starting berth after some impressive recent displays.