One goal separates Barca and Real as El Clásico looms

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta
Cristiano Ronaldo Both Barcelona and Real Madrid record routine wins as the build up to next Saturday's El Clásico gathers pace
Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo walks out for Real Madrid (Photo: Tsutomu Takasu)

Both Barcelona and Real Madrid recorded routine wins in La Liga this weekend as the build up to next Saturday’s El Clásico begins to gather pace.

With eight games left in the Spanish season, and with La Liga’s top two currently inseparable, the showdown at the Bernabeu is being billed as a title decider.

Real currently sit top of the Primera División on goal difference with Manuel Pellegrini’s and Pep Guardiola’s sides balanced precariously on 77 points. Below them, an astonishing 24 points separates third-placed Valencia from Barca in second.

A first half Cristiano Ronaldo penalty and a superb finish by Gonzalo Higuaín eased Madrid to a 2-0 victory which in truth Racing Santander never looked like being able to prevent.

Ronaldo’s spot-kick marked his 25th goal in 27 appearances for Real, the 25-year-old’s 18th in the League. However, the former Manchester United winger is playing catch-up with the club’s current top scorer, Higuaín, who leads the way by one.

Barca had cruised to an equally as comfortable three points when they overcame Athletic Bilbao 4-1 at Camp Nou on Saturday evening. A brace from 19-year-old Bojan KrkiÄ”¡ Perez, who was only given a place in the starting XI after Zlatan Ibrahimovic picked up a calf strain in the pre-match warm-up, helped the Catalans leapfrog their title rivals, albeit temporarily.

Real, thanks to their Champions League upset at the hands of Lyon last month, will benefit from the luxury of a free week to prepare as Barca look forward to welcoming Arsenal to Camp Nou on Tuesday evening.

Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta, who returned to training this morning following a hamstring strain, has warned his team-mates to ignore the praise they received for their dominating performance at the Emirates last Wednesday. “Praise makes you weak,” said the 25-year-old. “I don’t like too much of it.”

Iniesta, who is not expected to recover in time for Arsenal’s visit, could return for the La Liga title clash at the weekend. Ibrahimovic, however, is set to miss Barca’s midweek encounter and faces a race against the clock to be fit for the trip to the Bernabeu.

Meanwhile Los Blancos could be boosted by the return of Kaká, out with an adductor muscle problem, after the Brazilian resumed light training this weekend. Karim Benzema, who has been sidelined by a groin injury, could also return in time for Saturday.

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