Barcelona and Real Madrid are level on points at the La Liga summit and both face stern tests this weekend ahead of their rearranged Clasico clash next Wednesday.
Barca travel to the Basque Country to take on fourth-placed Real Sociedad on Saturday, while Real visit a resurgent Valencia side 24 hours later.
The Catalans, who sit ahead of their great rivals on goal difference with both on 34 points, could rest several first-team regulars–including Lionel Messi–in Tuesday’s 2-1 Champions League victory over Inter Milan having already qualified for the knockout stages.
After a difficult start to the season, Barca have lost just one of their last 16 in all competitions and coach Ernesto Valverde feels they are clicking into gear at the right time. “We’re in a good way. It’s good to see this kind of consistency. We had to come through a difficult spell to get to where we are now,” he said.
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Saturday’s opponents Sociedad have stumbled slightly of late after topping La Liga at the start of November, winning just two of their last six to slip to fourth, seven points off the table toppers.
Meanwhile, Madrid, who have won eight of their last 10 in all competitions, travel to a buoyant Valencia, who secured an unlikely berth in the last 16 of the Champions League with an impressive victory away to Ajax Amsterdam in midweek despite missing nine first-team regulars through injury. Real coach Zinedine Zidane faces a difficult decision on whether to rest midfield general Casemiro for the trip to Mestalla.