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3-min read

Counter kings Real vs lords of possession Barca

Under coach Pep Guardiola, Barcelona have seven wins and three draws against only one loss to Madrid.

test sharma | Associated Press

Updated:December 9, 2011, 11:12 AM IST
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Counter kings Real vs lords of possession Barca
Under coach Pep Guardiola, Barcelona have seven wins and three draws against only one loss to Madrid.
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Barcelona: With Barcelona having won only two of six away games this season, Real Madrid have a great chance of breaking their rivals' recent dominance when the teams play each other on Saturday at Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Under coach Pep Guardiola, Barcelona have seven wins and three draws against only one loss to Madrid in all competitions.

In that period, the Catalan side has won two Champions League and three Spanish league titles among 12 trophies, compared to Madrid's single Copa del Rey victory.

But while Barcelona are struggling away from the Camp Nou in the Spanish league this season, Madrid coach Jose Mourinho is enjoying the best winning run of his highly successful career, with his team victorious in 15 straight games overall.

"Madrid are always strong, both now and back when I was a player," Guardiola said. "They are on a magnificent run. We will try to go there and win, just like in every stadium, but we know that they have a lot going for them."

Barcelona edged Madrid over two games to win the Spanish Supercup to start the season, and Saturday's game will be the eighth meeting between the two teams since the arrival of Mourinho to Madrid's bench in the summer of 2010.

This run of recent clasicos has been marred by hard tackles, accusations of referee favoritism and spats that culminated in Mourinho poking the eye of Barcelona assistant Tito Vilanova the last time the two powerhouses met.

But the run-up to Saturday's game has remained low key, and many in Spain hope that good grace will finally return to the pitch at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Mourinho has tried to downplay the importance of the game as well as his team's impressive form.

"It is just another game," the Portuguese manager said. "Maybe for you (the press) it is different, but for us life goes on as always. What has happened until now doesn't matter. The only thing that counts is what occurs during those 90 minutes."

Barcelona come in three points behind league leaders Madrid, but the defending European champions have played an extra game so they can compete in the Club World Cup, set to begin on Thursday.

This means that a loss to Madrid could have Barcelona returning from Japan facing a nine-point deficit in the standings approaching the season's mid-way point.

"If we lose, we will be nine points behind and it will be more difficult, but I only think about playing well and creating scoring chances," Guardiola said. "Creating chances is the only way to take this team on and beat it."

The defending champions will need to jumpstart an attack that has stalled away from home this season. Leading scorer Lionel Messi has netted just one of his 17 league goals outside Barcelona, and strike partners David Villa and Pedro Rodriguez have failed to pick up the slack.

But Barcelona will also have to find a way to handle Madrid's potent attack led by Cristiano Ronaldo, if they hope to remain undefeated against Madrid for the seventh straight league meeting.

The Portugal forward and strikers Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema have scored 36 goals in league play, far more than the combined total of any other team in the Spanish league except Barcelona.

Mourinho has revealed that only one of his in-form strikers will join Ronaldo in attack along with winger Angel Di Maria.

The main question revolving around Madrid is whether they will revert to last season's defensive tactics that helped them snatch the Copa del Rey from Barcelona while losing the Champions League semi-finals and domestic league race, or continue their attractive, flowing attack.

"Last year, I was critical of them because they didn't play attacking football," Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez said. "In the Spanish Supercup, however, they came out and went at us, and I guess that's what they'll do Saturday."

"I hope that at the end of the game we are only talking about football. In recent clasicos there has been more talk about referees and hard kicks, and that is a pity."

Also on Saturday, third-place Valencia look to bounce back from their Champions League exit as they visit Real Betis, while Levante host Sevilla in a match-up of the league's respective fourth- and fifth-placed teams.

On Sunday, it's - Rayo Vallecano vs Sporting Gijon, Villarreal vs Real Sociedad, Getafe vs Granada, Malaga vs Osasuna, Zaragoza vs Mallorca, Athletic Bilbao vs Racing Santander, and Espanyol vs Atletico Madrid.

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