El Clasico heats up title race

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Published: Saturday 21st March 2015 by The News Editor

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Gerard Pique believes a win against Real Madrid on Sunday could be crucial in helping Barcelona regain the title at the end of the season.

Barcelona go into El Clasico with a one point lead over their bitter rivals in La Liga, but a win would give them breathing space at the top of the table and Pique admitted it could be a turning point in the season.

“Winning the Clasico would be a very important step forward,” he said on the club’s website. “There are ten games left and it’s very tight between us. If we get three points it also means that they won’t, and that will open a gap that might end up winning us the title.”

Lionel Messi has stolen a lot of headlines this week after his display in the Champions League against Manchester City, and Pique believes the influence of the Argentinian along with Luis Suarez and Neymar has given the side renewed confidence.

A blip against Malaga was the only time in the last 18 matches where Barca have failed to win, and Pique believes the trio could be crucial to securing another three points that would take them clear at the top of the table.

“We are in very positive form and winning a lot of games” he said. “Most of all, we have three very strong players up front and we’re competing well at the back.

“We are all excited about the Clasico and hoping to get all three points from the game… You feel stronger and more confident on the back of a run like the one we’ve been having.

“This isn’t their (Real’s) best moment of the season. But the form book goes out the window for the Clasico. Each side has a 50 per cent chance of winning.

“They have Cristiano (Ronaldo) and (Gareth) Bale, two players that are very powerful, very fast, very dangerous in the one-on-one and who score goals. (Karim) Benzema gives them balance.”

Despite Pique’s praise, Benzema has admitted to feeling the pressure ahead of the match.

Real have stuttered of late, with just one win in the last four games, but Madrid won the reverse fixture 3-1 and Benzema thinks another win could re-ignite their title challenge after an encouraging 2-0 win over Levante last week, which included two goals for the under-fire Bale.

“We know that there’s a lot of pressure, but that’s normal because it’s a huge match,” he told the Bwin website. “Every player who loves football wants to play in it. We’re going to prepare well for the match, all together, to go to Barcelona and win.

“We’re only thinking about working hard to win together, as always. If we defend well we can do it.

“We can repeat the result from the first half of the season. We’re in good shape to win and put in a performance like the one we put in.

“We’re Real Madrid. To score again like I did in our first meeting of the season, I need a bit of luck and nothing else.”

The Frenchman singled out the return of Sergio Ramos as a key factor for Los Blancos. Ramos had been out for over a month before returning at Levante, but his presence is expected to revitalise the campaign.

Although insisting Madrid do not rely on the centre-back, Benzema admitted he would have a big part to play, saying: “We’re a team, we’ll work together to defend and to stop the Barcelona players. We don’t only have Sergio, but it’s good for the team that he’s going to play.”

Published: Saturday 21st March 2015 by The News Editor

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