SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK:Real Madrid and Barcelona face two Clasicos in four days next week but La Liga’s greatest rivals are not so much revving up for the double-header but crawling reluctantly towards it.
This weekend, Barca travel to fourth-placed Sevilla on Saturday and Madrid to Levante on Sunday, when priorities, rest and rotation will all be high on the agenda again.
Santiago Solari pointed to exhaustion following his team’s latest loss at home to Girona, four days after they came from behind to beat Ajax, eight after defeating Atletico Madrid and 11 after holding Barca to a draw at the Camp Nou.
“The fatigue is not only physical, it is mental, it affects our concentration,” Solari said.
“Obviously we have come from an important period, with a lot of hard games. We have to overcome it because it might be that our energy levels dipped in the second half.”
Girona were outplayed in the first period but scored twice in the second, both goals coming in the final 25 minutes, to end what had begun to look like a serious Real resurgence in the title race.
Instead, Barcelona now own a nine-pont cushion over Real, seven over Atletico, and even if that lead is dented this weekend, there remains room for error ahead of the league game at the Santiago Bernabeu.
By then, the two clubs will already have squared off in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final, in the same stadium, where Madrid’s motivation might be greater given Barca have won the cup four times in a row.
The dilemma for Solari is that preserving key players against Levante risks another slip which, combined with Barca winning at Sevilla, would surely spell the end of any fading title hopes.
“We will continue fighting on all three fronts that we have open,” Solari said. “We have to keep trying to reduce the gap.”