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December 13, 2019

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Barca, Real face stern tests ahead of Clasico

Barcelona and Real Madrid are level on points at the La Liga summit and both face stern tests this weekend ahead of their rearranged Clasico clash next Wednesday.

Barca travels to Basque Country to take on fourth-place Real Sociedad tomorrow, while Real visits resurgent Valencia 24 hours later.

The Catalans, who sit ahead of their great rivals on goal difference with both on 34 points, were able to rest a number of first-team regulars — including Lionel Messi — in Tuesday’s 2-1 UEFA Champions League victory over Inter Milan having already qualified for the knockout stages.

After a difficult start to the season, Barca has lost just one of its last 16 in all competitions and coach Ernesto Valverde feels it is clicking into gear at the right time.

“We’re in a good way. It’s good to see this kind of consistency. We had to come through a difficult spell to get to where we are now.

“We had difficulties, with a number of forwards injured and they had to try and get back into form on the hoof, with little time. We always have to win at this club, the players know and feel it. We are really happy with how things are going,” he said.

Tomorrow’s opponent Sociedad has stumbled slightly of late after topping La Liga at the start of November, winning just two of its last six to slip to fourth, seven points off the table toppers.

Meanwhile, Real, which has won eight of its last 10 in all competitions, travels to a buoyant Valencia, which secured an unlikely berth in the last 16 of the UCL with an impressive victory away to Ajax in midweek despite missing nine first-team regulars through injury.

Real coach Zinedine Zidane faces a difficult decision on whether or not to rest midfield general Casemiro for the trip to Mestalla.

The Brazilian has started in all of the club’s La Liga matches this season, but he is a yellow card away from missing Wednesday’s Clasico through suspension having picked up four bookings already this campaign.

“He’s played (in the UCL) and we’ll have a look into it for the next game, and see what we do in Valencia. He hasn’t got much rest, but I’m not going to say what my plan is.”


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