Madrid: So far, so good for Barcelona in the Champions League. Now it’s time to get back on track in La Liga.
The 2-1 win over Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday left Barcelona comfortably ahead in Group G of the Champions League with nine points from three matches. But the situation is very different at home, where the Catalan club got off to a lacklustre start under coach Ronald Koeman.
Barcelona enter their match against Real Betis on Saturday in 12th place in the standings and coming off a four-match winless streak. Among their poor results was a home loss against Real Madrid in the first ‘clasico’ of the season.
The club have eight points from six matches and currently trail leaders Real Sociedad by nine, although they have two games in hand. Atletico Madrid have also played six matches but already are six points ahead of Barcelona, while Madrid are eight points in front with only one game in hand.
“We have a good dynamic going in the Champions League, but we need to change things in the Spanish league,” veteran Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said after the win over Dynamo at the Camp Nou. “I’m convinced that we can do it. We are in good spirits. We need to start winning matches to gain confidence and keep improving.”
Barcelona are trying to keep Real from winning back-to-back league titles for the first time since 2007-08. The club haven’t finished behind Atletico in the standings since the Madrid team won the title for the last time in 2013-14.
Contrary to Barcelona, Real began the year thriving in the league and struggling in the Champions League. They visit Valencia on Sunday seeking their sixth win in the last seven league matches. They had been winless in the European competition until defeating Inter Milan 3-2 on Tuesday to get back in position to advance.
“We know it’s going to be difficult to win throughout the season because there are no easy games,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “I don’t see any other team winning every game comfortably, but we know that when we play as a team we are tough to beat.”
Atletico are coming off a draw at Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League on Tuesday but have won three in a row in the league, where they remain the only unbeaten team. The team just signed French-born midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia from Valencia to improve their midfield after the departure of Thomas Partey to Arsenal.