Barcelona’s coach Luis Enrique attends a press conference at the Sports Center FC Barcelona Joan Gamper in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona on December 2, 2016 on the eve of their Spanish League Clasico football match FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid. / AFP PHOTO / JOSEP LAGO
Barcelona boss Luis Enrique accepted his side are by far the more in need of the three points when Real Madrid visit the Camp Nou on Saturday (1515GMT) in El Clasico.
Madrid hold a six-point lead over Barca, who are off to their worst La Liga start in nine seasons, at the top of the table.
“Without a doubt (Barca are the most in need), you just have to look at the table,” Enrique said on the eve of the game Friday.
Back-to-back draws against Malaga and Real Sociedad for Barca have allowed Madrid to amass a comfortable lead.
Indeed, Enrique even described Barca’s display at Sociedad last weekend as the worst of his three seasons in charge.
However, he insisted the Spanish champions remain the best team in the world when they hit top form.
“There are good teams at a high level, but none of them are better than us. That is what makes me optimistic.”
Barca also received a huge injury boost on Friday when captain Andres Iniesta was cleared to make his return after six weeks out with a knee injury.
“Iniesta is our captain and a reference point for Barca’s style,” added Enrique.
“It is great news for the person that he is and what he represents as captain.”
Madrid have gone 32 games unbeaten in all competitions since April, but Enrique expects Los Blancos to defend deep and aim to hit Barca on the counter-attack.
“I expect Madrid to play as they have done since the start of the season and last year, they have no problem in leaving the ball to the opposition and we need it. In that sense we understand each other.
“They take advantage of set-pieces, quick transitions, few touches and the efficiency of their players in the final third. We need more control to create spaces and chances.”
– ‘Unstoppable’ –
Meanwhile, Barca midfielder Arda Turan insists the Catalans are unstoppable when they play to their potential, despite their struggles in recent weeks.
“Barca are the best team and when we play like we know how, we are unstoppable,” the Turkish international told Barca TV.
“I have a very good feeling ahead of the Clasico.”
A television audience of 650 million people are expecting to tune in worldwide.
And Barca defender Javier Mascherano admitted any meeting with Madrid carries a special allure.
“Despite there being just three points at stake, like in the rest of the matches, the attention before and after the game makes it a special match,” the Argentine told Barca TV.
Mascherano’s life should be made easier by the absence of Real’s flying winger Gareth Bale through injury.
The Welshman looks set to miss up to four months after undergoing surgery on an ankle injury.
However, Mascherano is wary of the European champions’ strength in depth.
“They have lost a very important player, but this season their reserves are playing very well.
“Madrid have players of great quality so we have to pay special attention no matter who plays.”