Dubai: Real Madrid only have to look at what they did 10-years ago to realise Barcelona can still stage a comeback in La Liga this season, according to former Los Blancos right-back Michel Salgado.
Barca are currently three points behind Real (who have a game in hand) with six games remaining, ahead of Sunday’s El Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu.
To make matters worse, the Catalans are also reeling from Wednesday’s Uefa Champions League quarter-final exit 3-0 on aggregate to Juventus.
Salgado has warned that Barca could still stage an unlikely comeback buoyed by the result of Sunday’s derby however, recalling the 2006/07 season when Fabio Capello’s Real overturned a seven-point deficit over Barcelona, to win the league on a better head-to-head record.
Like Barca now, Real then had also just been knocked out of the Champions League Last 16 by Bayern Munich in March just days ahead of a crunch El Clasico at the Nou Camp.
“I remember it was a tough week for us and everyone was saying we would lose five or six nil at the Nou Camp, but we ended up drawing 3-3 and it was a turning point for that big comeback,” said the 41-year-old Spaniard, who played over 250 games for Real between 1999 and 2009, winning four La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues.
“An El Clasico is different. It doesn’t matter what position you are in the table, or what happened last week. We still have advantage, we are playing at home and are three points ahead with a game in hand, but believe me it’s going to be life or death, Barca are going to be hurting after Wednesday’s loss to Juve, and they are going to be even more dangerous, so we have to be ready. They are not done yet.”
Asked if Barca’s Champions League exit represented an end of an era of European dominance for the Catalans, he replied: “Whenever you’re eliminated, they say that, but then suddenly you win more.
“It’s one thing what the fans and media say but another is what is going on inside the club. There will be changes in the summer for sure but there would have been even if they had won the Champions League. Big clubs don’t stop signing new players and renewing their squad because they always have to be first.
“There are still very important players there and they aren’t that old. The Luis Enrique era might be over but a new coach will come in and take advantage of the players he has and buy some new ones, but I wouldn’t say it is the end of an era.”
Of Real’s own progression in the Champions League, having beaten Bayern Munich 6-3 on aggregate on Tuesday, he remained wary of picking a preferred semi-final opponent.
“Right now on paper we may look favourites but one bad night in the Champions League and everything changes.
“You can’t underestimate Monaco, Juve looked strong against Barca and they are one I’d want to avoid, but then again Atletico Madrid is also a derby for us, so we don’t want to play them either.
“Juve and Atletico don’t really suit our style. Monaco, on paper should be the weakest, but they are dangerous, so all I can really ask is that we get a home draw in the second leg.
“For now though, the only thing we should do now is enjoy the win because it was really tough, Bayern are one of the best teams in the world.”
Michel Salgado was speaking on the sidelines of a press conference to announce his inaugural Under-13s Dubai Intercontinental Cup on Thursday, which sees 12 local and international youth teams, including Real Madrid and AC Milan, compete at Dubai Sports City this weekend, in association with Dubai Sports Council and La Liga. The idea of the tournament is to expose local youth to higher standards of competition by bringing in the world’s best youth set-ups, so that they can compete, learn and improve.