Barcelona v Real Madrid preview
El Clasico returns on Saturday evening, and there is plenty riding on the latest meeting between old adversaries Barcelona and Real Madrid.
By Tim Clement - Twitter: @SkyTimClement
Last Updated: 21/04/12 8:51am
Real Madrid will be looking to put their slip-ups aside and the La Liga title race to bed in one of the most keenly-anticipated El Clasico clashes of all time.
Barcelona have cut the gap from 10 points to just four thanks to 11 successive league wins, with Jose Mourinho's men drawing three times during that run, but victory on Saturday night will leave the capital side seven points clear with just four to play.
Both sides will be looking to bounce back from defeats in the first legs of their respective Champions League semi-final ties, with Real Madrid losing 2-1 at Bayern Munich before Barcelona lost 1-0 at Chelsea.
Another loss for Real Madrid would leave them leading La Liga by just a single point and, with tricky clashes with Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao to follow, possessing no room for further slip-ups.
Barca boss Pep Guardiola has cranked up the pressure in the build-up to Saturday night's clash by maintaining that the title is Madrid's to lose rather than for his side to win, while his opposite number Mourinho has been virtually muted, insisting his opinions will only serve to earn him further touchline bans following various clashes with officials.
The build-up to the Nou Camp clash has inevitably been dominated by the game's two biggest names, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with the duo scoring a record-breaking 41 goals in La Liga already, eclipsing the 40-goal record set by Ronaldo last season.
Messi has scored a hefty percentage of his at home with a remarkable 28 goals at the Nou Camp, while Ronaldo has been almost as prolific away from the Bernabeu, netting 20 times on the road.
However, the battle of Spain's top two has rarely been two-man show, with the pair netting just six of the 20 goals in the duos five meeting this season.
The rivalry between Guardiola and Mourinho has all too often proved as much of an intriguing sub-plot in recent times, with Mourinho something of a pantomime villain at Camp Nou since cutting his coaching teeth in Catalunya before returning for controversy-packed encounters at the reins of Chelsea, Inter Milan and now their great rivals.
Then there's the poignant history of their rivalry two clubs, divided politically and driven by a battle for titles throughout their rich pasts, which has seen Real Madrid claim the most league titles (31) but the Catalans dominating of late with three-successive La Liga crowns.
Both teams are virtually full strength with Alexis Sanchez expected to be fit despite picking up a knock against Chelsea, while Gerard Pique may return after sitting out the defeat at Stamford Bridge.
Real Madrid welcome back Xabi Alonso from a one-match domestic ban, meaning Mourinho only remains without long-term absentees Ricardo Carvalho (thigh) and Lassana Diarra (hamstring) as he looks to record a first win at the Nou Camp.
Best bet: Over 4.5 goals - 100/30