Andres Iniesta accepts the timing of Saturday’s Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid is “not the best scenario” as the game immediately follows a two-week international break.
Iniesta was not involved in Spain’s friendly draws against Italy or Romania due to injury, but the influential midfielder is expected to return at Camp Nou.
Barcelona can take a big step towards retaining their Liga title with a win, as Luis Enrique’s side are already nine points clear of Atletico Madrid at the top of the table, while Madrid are a further point behind.
Iniesta is unhappy with the scheduling of the Clasico, but does not expect it to be a decisive factor.
“It is not the best scenario, but it is a normal situation within the schedule we have,” said Iniesta.
“It will not be transcendental. We know what we have to do and who we are facing.
“A Clasico is always a different game, you can feel it in the environment. We want to win without paying attention to anything else.
“We have the desire and enthusiasm to finish the season in the best way possible.”
Madrid are on their best run of form since Zinedine Zidane’s appointment, with four successive wins since a 1-0 home loss to Atletico, but Luis Enrique’s side have won 20 of their last 22 league games at Camp Nou.
The spotlight, as ever, will be on the star players for each side. Lionel Messi has scored eight goals in Barca’s last six home games, while his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo has found the net nine times in eight trips to Camp Nou.
Messi could also hit his 500th career goal in the match after recently taking his tally to 499 by scoring his 50th international goal in a 2-0 victory for Argentina against Bolivia.
Recent history favours the hosts as Barca have won four of the last six Clasicos while Madrid have only won one of their seven previous trips to Barcelona, a 2-1 victory in April 2012, and their captain Sergio Ramos is out for “revenge”.
Madrid suffered a humiliating 4-0 home defeat in the reverse fixture, a loss that contributed to the sacking of Rafael Benitez.
“After the bad result in the first Clasico, football gives you the chance for revenge and on Saturday we’ve got the opportunity to play away against a great team like Barcelona,” Ramos, who is expected to shake off a back complaint to take his place in Madrid’s back line, said.
“Football is difficult, but we’re keen to put in a good performance and it’s easier when you put your heart and soul into it and show character and application.
“We must try to defend well because these games hinge on small details and the team that ends up winning is usually the one that makes the least mistakes.”
Zidane has a full squad to select from, but Barca defender Jeremy Mathieu will miss the game after tearing his meniscus on international duty with France, while Adriano (hamstring) is also out.
Barca will welcome back Sergio Busquets (finger), Jordi Alba (ankle) and Ivan Rakitic (calf) for the Clasico.
Key Opta facts:
– Barcelona have won 16 penalties in La Liga 2015/16, the most for a league side in a single season since at least 2005/06.
– The Whites have scored the first goal of the game more times than any other side in La Liga this season (24) while Barça have won the most points after having conceded first (15).
– The last four red cards in games in all competitions between these two sides were all shown to Real Madrid players.
– Barcelona have never won a league game against Real Madrid when they have lead the competition and been 10 or more points ahead of the Whites (D1 L2).
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