Madrid: Barcelona and Real Madrid could be playing to be first in La Liga over the Christmas break on Wednesday but both are at risk of pre-Clasico defeats if their focus wavers this weekend.
There are few tougher fixtures in the league than Barca’s away at free-flowing fourth-placed Real Sociedad on Saturday or Madrid’s trip on Sunday to a revived Valencia, who have won three games on the bounce and beat Ajax in Amsterdam to win their group in the Champions League.
Already qualified in Europe, Barcelona and Real Madrid had the luxury of rotating key players in midweek but as the emphasis shifts towards their crunch meeting at Camp Nou, the danger is that they underestimate the tasks in front of them.
Both have hit their stride in recent weeks.
Barcelona have won 13 of their last 15 games and Real nine out of their last 12.
In normal circumstances, both might therefore have been expected to come away from Anoeta and Mestalla with victories but each have reason to be wary.
Off the pitch, the threat of political unrest around the Clasico lingers, with Catalan independence demonstrations expected at Camp Nou both before and during the game next week.
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu called for calm on Thursday and insisted the match would not be postponed again but, with families and friends in the city and likely to attend the game, it would be understandable if his players’ minds were not fully on football this weekend.
Granada v Levante (4pm), Real Sociedad v Barcelona (7pm), Athletic Bilbao v Eibar (9.30pm), Atletico Madrid v Osasuna (midnight)
Getafe v Real Valladolid (3pm), Celta Vigo v Mallorca (5pm), Espanyol v Real Betis (7pm), Sevilla v Villarreal (9.30pm), Valencia v Real Madrid (midnight)