It may only be six rounds into the 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 Barca’s red-hot form has already seen Tito Vilanova’s men open up an eight-point gap on the reigning champions, and a home win in tomorrow’s first league El Clasico of the season would stretch that already sizeable advantage further still.
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 be a very important advantage but we could still lose those points.
“These are three very important points but the league will not be decided in this match.”
Madrid’s 2-1 win at the Nou Camp in April saw Jose 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 weekend’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.
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 should be able to select near enough his strongest Madrid team, with Kaka pushing for a starting berth after some impressive recent displays.