With just under three weeks before the Copa del Rey final between Real Madrid and Barcelona, tensions are already as high as always going into final bend of the season.
Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has started the mind games, stating early this week that his team can repeat November’s 5-0 triumph over their eternal rivals when the pair meet in the cup final on April 20.
As the battle for La Liga heats up, the second ‘El Clasico’ of the season takes place at the Santiago Bernabeu just days before the Copa del Rey final.
“I predict a 5-0 result so we don’t lose our custom,” Rosell told the Catalan press on Wednesday, and trust Real Madrid, they responded by banning Shakira songs from the Santiago Bernabeu, reason being her relationship with Barca’s defender Gerard Pique.
European press reported this week, quoting Spanish dailies Marca and AS claim that no songs from the Colombian musician will be played at the ground prior to matches in protest to affiliation with the Spanish international.
Shakira and Pique’s romantic relationship was made public earlier in the week with photos of the couple making the rounds in various media outlets, especially the English tabloids.
Given the rivalry between Barca and Madrid, it’s been suggested that the former will now stop giving airtime to the 34-year-old’s songs at their venue, despite the fact that Waka Waka star is a self-confessed Madrid fan.
With nine rounds of matches, including this weekend’s fixtures, remaining the two-time defending league champions currently hold a five-point advantage over their fierce rivals, who, even with the Special One in charge, could end the season empty-handed.
To win anything this season, Real Madrid must beat Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final, then overcome first Tottenham in the Champions League quarterfinal, then Barca in the semifinal, [the Calatan side is expected to see off Shakhtar Donetsk in their last eight clash] before reaching the final.
As far as La Liga is concerned, their chances are minimal, given that Pep Guardiola’s side is in no mood to let it slip their fingers, having led the race since the early days of the season.
If Guardiola can see his team all three points from Saturday’s visit to fourth-placed Villarreal, regardless of what comes out of Madrid’s home game with 15-placed Sporting Gijon, it will be another big stride towards him becoming the first Barcelona coach to guide the club to three back-to-back league titles.
Villarreal, who have never exceeded 54 points in a single season, is on target for a record number [of points], and they’ll be hoping to snatch all three from the two-time defending champions, who are unbeaten on the road this campaign.
Messi and Ronaldo injuries worries
The two title race front runners head into Saturday’s league matches waiting on injury worries to their star players, Messi and Ronaldo.
Barcelona travels to Villarreal but with Messi nursing a right leg problem, while Ronaldo continues to be troubled by a left leg injury.
Mourinho may prefer not to risk his compatriot against Sporting Gijon, especially with a Champions League match against Tottenham coming up on Tuesday.
Both Messi and Ronaldo have scored a combined 54 La Liga goals between them this season with 27 strikes for each.