Barcelona may have only beaten Manchester City by a slender
margin but the way their Lionel Messi-inspired attack
terrorised the Premier League champions’ defence is an
ominous sign for Real Madrid ahead of the ‘El Clasico’ on
Barca sealed a Champions League last eight place with a 3-1
aggregate triumph following Wednesday’s 1-0 win but some
sloppy finishing and an inspired performance from City keeper
Joe Hart kept the winning margin down to a respectable level.
However, the dominant performance would still have been
pleasing for coach Luis Enrique, who in just a few months has
silenced doubters questioning his credentials to become the
leader of a side contending for silverware on three fronts.
The Catalan side are on a run of 17 victories from their last
18 games in which they have qualified for the King’s Cup final
and moved a point clear of Real Madrid in La Liga.
Luis Enrique and Messi had a highly publicised bust-up in
late December with the Argentine left out of the starting line-
up for the first game of 2015, which they lost away to Real
Sociedad, as he returned late from a winter break.
Since then, Barca have only lost one game and Messi’s
enthusiasm has returned, with the player even training last
Monday which was scheduled as a day off for the team.
While Messi has been the talisman, Luis Suarez and Neymar
are also looking menacing in a potent three-pronged attack
as Barca face a crunch clash with Real this weekend that
could go a long way to deciding where the title ends up.
“We are playing well but we cannot get carried away because
there is a long way to go,” Messi told reporters.
“We have some big games… first against Madrid and then
there are the quarterfinals (of the Champions League) where
we will face another tough team.”
By contrast, arch-rivals Real have stuttered of late, recording
just one win from four games in all competitions and a defeat
on Sunday would intensify the pressure on them.
“I have a lot of respect for Madrid. When Madrid are in this
situation it is when they are most dangerous,” Messi added.
“They have great players. We will go out to play our football
and look to win but at the same time we need to be wary of
them as much as ever.”