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Barcelona prep for 'Clasico'

2015-03-12 12:19
Luis Suarez (AFP)

Madrid - Spanish leaders Barcelona will start their most important week of the season so far at minnows Eibar ahead of crucial clashes against Manchester City and Real Madrid.

Before hosting Manchester City and Real Madrid in crucial games, Spanish leaders Barcelona will have to visit minnows Eibar Saturday.

Barca have won 14 of their last 15 games in all competitions, reaching the final of the Spanish cup and overtaking troubled Real Madrid in La Liga.

However, they will not underestimate Eibar, as striker Neymar pointed out.

"We should only be thinking about Eibar, not about the other matches we have afterwards. Their pitch is very small, it will not be an easy match for us."

Neymar was upbeat about Barca's form, saying: "With every game we are stronger and better. We are training hard, and the situation in the dressing-room is excellent now."

When asked about his partnership with fellow South Americans Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, Neymar said: "We are getting to know each other better with every game. Messi is the best in the world and Suarez is one of the best. It is a privilege for me to play alongside them."

Barca coach Luis Enrique will have to build a makeshift defence because full-backs Dani Alves and Jordi Alba are both suspended.

Javier Mascherano will cover for the injured Sergio Busquets in defensive midfield, though the Argentine veteran will have to be on his best behaviour because a fifth yellow card would keep him out of El Clasico against Real.

The visit of Barca has come at a bad time for Eibar, who have lost their last seven games and slipped down to 14th, after making a surprisingly good start to their first ever season in La Liga.

"Now is the time for us to be completely united," said Eibar captain Jon Errasti.

"I ask the fans to get behind us because we need their backing. We need Barca to feel uncomfortable here...We knew it was going to be difficult for us in the top flight, but we are still alive and fighting."

Barca are one point above Real, who will be trying to put their crisis behind them Sunday at home to lowly Levante.

Embattled coach Carlo Ancelotti will have to decide whether to stick by Iker Casillas after a shaky display from the veteran keeper in Tuesday's 4-3 defeat against Schalke 04 which almost put the holders out of the Champions League.

"I was not very good today, I didn't feel well at all," admitted Casillas after the heart-stopping defeat.

"We have really touched rock bottom now...We should not forget what happened today, but now we have to focus on improving our league results."

Los Merengues have dropped 11 points in a disastrous start to 2015.

Cristiano Ronaldo - who saved Real Tuesday with a brace - said afterwards he would not talk to the media until the end of the season.

Third-placed Atletico Madrid will visit Espanyol Saturday, while Valencia - who are fourth - will host Deportivo Coruna Friday.

The weekend's other games are: Celta Vigo vs Athletic Bilbao, Rayo Vallecano vs Granada, Almeria vs Villarreal, Malaga vs Cordoba, Sevilla vs Elche and Getafe vs Real Sociedad.

Read more on:    barcelona  |  la liga  |  soccer
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