Michael Laudrup probably knows a good deal more about El Clasico than most commentators.
He may not be the first person fans think of when seeking sage-like insight on the biggest rivalry in European football, but having played for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, Laudrup must know his stuff, and he believes that Barcelona must win Sunday’s clash to remain in the running for the La Liga title, according to news outlets this week.
Los Blancos are four points ahead of their archrivals, so a win could put them too far out of reach for Barca to defend their title.
“Real Madrid are favourites because they are playing at home, but both teams have players who can change the balance game,” Laudrup told Cadena COPE. “Real Madrid were behind but now have the chance to knock a rival like Barcelona out of the title race because it a seven-point deficit with nine games would be very complicated.”
Springtime Clasicos have a tendency to carry more weight than as a simple extension of the rivalry — Madridistas will fondly remember 2012’s 2-1 victory at the Camp Nou that essentially secured the league title and 2013’s stretch of three Clasicos in four weeks, where Madrid knocked Barca out of the Copa del Ray as a consolation for losing the league to their rivals.
Both teams prepared about as well as they could for such a vital game. Lionel Messi notched a hat-trick to become Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer in an emphatic 7-0 victory against Osasuna on Sunday, while Madrid advanced in the hunt for La Decima with a 9-2 aggregate score against Schalke 04 with the help of a Cristiano Ronaldo brace.
Ronaldo and Messi will continue their attempts to one-up one another — and who can complain, given the dazzling performances they push each other into — but time will tell what impact the big-money signings will have.
Laudrup said both Gareth Bale and Neymar need time to settle into their new clubs before fully making good on their costs.
“You have to give Bale and Neymar time, but when you pay so much money for them, patience isn’t the word because you pay immediately,” the Danish legend said. “They are both good but they have to adapt to Real Madrid and Barcelona’s games because. Bale has been injured, but hasn’t had a bad year.”