BARCELONA, March 18 (Reuters) – Real Madrid will not hold back in El Clasico against Barcelona at Camp Nou on Sunday as they bid to close a nine-point gap their arch-rivals at the top of LaLiga.
Barca would take a huge step towards winning their first title for four years by beating the champions for the third time in a row.
“We will play attacking football on Sunday. Without taking risks, we will go out on attack,” Real manager Carlo Ancelotti told a news conference on Saturday.
“The team have been doing very well, we are in a good moment, mentally as well. But we have also improved a lot technically and tactically.”
Sunday will be the second of three clashes in a little over a month.
After losing 3-1 to their main rivals in the Spanish Super Cup final, Real were beaten 1-0 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final by a Barcelona side with a pragmatic defensive game plan.
“What I see is a very solid Barca, a team who concedes very little, with an important collective commitment. They suffered a little more than usual but won that game,” Ancelotti said.
“But they defended like that because they managed to get in front early. Sunday’s match could be different, depending on what happens early in the game.”
Barca have won 21 of their 25 league matches this season, losing only one of their last 16 games.
They are the second highest scorers in the division with 47 goals and boast the league’s top scorer in Robert Lewandowski with 15, but the foundation of their success has been at the other end of the pitch.
They have conceded only eight league goals in the league, by far the best defensive record in Europe’s top five leagues.
Coach Xavi Hernandez expects his back line will be tested by Real but is confident of causing them problems.
“I think Real Madrid will be more aggressive and attack more than usual because of the situation that they are facing, nine points behind us,” Xavi told a news conference.
“We want to give a better showing than we did (in the cup) at Santiago Bernabeu. We are capable of being dominant against Real Madrid.
“We will try to have more control, to have the ball more. We are playing against a team that I see as strong. They have improved a lot physically. It will be hard-fought and they will press us up top. It’s unpredictable. We hope our stadium will be like a pressure cooker.”
Hopeful that Pedri and Ousmane Dembele would recover from injury, Xavi received bad news from his medical crew on Friday, who told him neither would be fit.
“We can’t afford to lose Pedri for two months more, it’s all about his physical health and the sensations that he is experience. Sunday’s game is an important one, it’s decisive, but it’s not a final and we will not force him and risk that his injury worsen,” Xavi said.
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