After surviving the first part of a massive week unscathed – albeit with Karim Benzema fearing injury – Real Madrid are now focused on a major showdown with bitter rivals Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
While Madrid’s odds were massively in Real’s favor in protecting a 5-2 lead in the Champions League round of 16 against Liverpool, the opposite is true in the La Liga title fight against Barca.
Madrid have struggled for consistency domestically and are nine points adrift of leaders with 12 rounds to play after this weekend. Put simply, it’s win or lose for Los Blancos’ underdog title hopes.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side have had a great record against their Clasico opponents in LaLiga lately, but regardless of Sunday’s result, is it already too late to get their La Liga campaign back on track?
Stats Perform examines how the two sides are shaping up ahead of their fourth of five meetings this season and whether Madrid have a realistic chance of catching Barca.
Camp Nou the fortress
Madrid have dropped points too many times this season, especially away from home. In fact, they’ve won just three of their last seven league games away from the Bernabeu and haven’t managed to win in a row since October.
In comparison, Barcelona have won four consecutive clean sheets at the Camp Nou and have picked up 32 points from a possible 36 at home this season.
Only Paris Saint-Germain can boast a better home record in Europe’s top five leagues, picking up three points more than Barca despite playing one more game.
So on the face of it, Los Blancos are struggling to pick up a point this weekend, let alone the three they desperately need.
But Madrid have won five of their last six league games against Barca, including their last two visits to the Camp Nou – only once before, between January 1963 and February 1965, they’d won three consecutive times there in the competition.
However, this Barcelona side is very different from those Madrid have faced in the last two seasons, as was clearly seen in their two recent cup games.
The Catalans won the Supercopa de Espana final 3-1 in January and two weeks ago they won the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals 1-0, with the second leg at the Camp Nou taking place in early April.
They have got used to these 1-0 wins in the league too, nine of their 21 wins have come to this result – more than ever before in a whole season.
Xavi’s side have found a way to break down and win against any type of opponent and their four-year wait for a league title is surely coming to an end.
Madrid is anything but majestic
Opta’s prediction model certainly suggests this as Barca have a 93.2 percent chance of finishing on top and Madrid only a 6.7 percent chance of overtaking their big rivals.
However, given Sunday’s six-point swing on the line, those numbers could change quite drastically should the visitors win again at the Camp Nou.
That’s why this meeting is so important for both Barca and Madrid; practically the last chance for any kind of danger to be planted in the title fight between Spain’s two biggest clubs.
But Los Blancos don’t just have to beat Barca, they realistically need to string together a long winning streak and require Xavi’s men to drop at least six more points.
The four times Barca have dropped points this season, they have responded with winning streaks of seven, five, seven and two, with that latest streak still ongoing.
Madrid, meanwhile, have not been on a more than four-game winning streak in La Liga since mid-October and have since lost to the likes of Rayo Vallecano, Real Mallorca and Villarreal.
So you’re telling me there’s a chance?
Ancelotti has repeatedly vowed that Madrid will fight Barca all the way, while his counterpart Xavi has predicted the title race could go the distance.
However, in the long history of LaLiga, never has a team led by more than nine points at this point and not won the title.
But if madridistas are looking for consolation, there have been two instances where a team squandered a lead of six points or more after 26 games, which would be the scenario teams would find themselves in if Madrid win.
Such a case will be all too familiar to Madrid fans as their side did not top the table in 2003/04, eight points clear of eventual champions Valencia.
The other time was 42 years ago when Real Sociedad, six points adrift, overtook Atletico Madrid down the stretch to clinch the title.
Realistically, then, Madrid must win at home to their biggest rivals or they will be tasked with achieving something that has never happened before in the Spanish top flight.
The odds might not be in their favor but if last season’s run to Champions League glory taught us anything, it’s that you can never write this Real Madrid side off.