Copa Clasico looms at the Bernabeu
Barcelona travel to the Bernabeu for the first leg before hosting the return leg next week. With the Spanish giants both battling in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, which resumes in February, and for top spot in La Liga, the season promises combat on three fronts.
In the league at the weekend the pressure was already starting to show for both teams, however. Real had to come from behind to secure a 2-1 win at Mallorca on Saturday, with late goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon ensuring the result. And, a day later Barcelona stuttered as they dropped a two-goal lead against Betis before claiming a 4-2 victory.
Barcelona have already triumphed at the Bernabeu back in December with a resounding 3-1 league victory. Cristiano Ronaldo's performance in the match sparked debate, but the Portuguese international has said such games against Barça are not a problem for him.
"Before matches I am relaxed, pressure means nothing to me and I don't feel any more against Barça," Ronaldo said.
For Barcelona's midfielder Xavi Hernandez, matches against Real are a highlight. "I like playing in the Bernabeu, it's a special stadium and a historical game which makes us motivated and makes for an intense match," he said.
"Madrid don't change, they play a direct game with three or four players who can hit you on the counter attack, they are also dangerous from dead balls and we have to be alert in defence," he continued. "However, we do not hold back, we'll play our usual game to attack and score goals and be as brave as we have been in recent years in the Bernabeu."
Real have injury doubts over Sami Khedira and Pepe, but expect to welcome back Angel Di Maria, who has been very important for them this season. Barcelona, meanwhile, are without long-term casualties Ibrahim Afellay, David Villa and Pedro Rodriguez. In addition, Seydou Keita will be absent at the CAF African Cup of Nations with Mali.