Barcelona’s dismal European form has cast a shadow over their national resurgence, which will be put to the ultimate test on Sunday when they visit Real Madrid in a highly anticipated La Liga derby.
A renewed Barça, led by new signing Robert Lewandowski, has won seven consecutive LaLiga games and shares the lead with 22 points with Madrid, champion of Spain and Europe.
However, his poor results in the Champions League have tarnished his national career and Wednesday’s draw (3-3) against Inter Milan has left him on the verge of elimination from Europe’s top competition in the knockout stage. groups for the second consecutive season.
Barça have only won one of their four Champions League group stage games and, if Inter beat modest Viktoria Plzen in their next match, the Catalans will see their new failure in Europe confirmed.
Falling back out of the group stage would deal a severe blow to Barcelona’s finances, whose perilous state led the club’s board of directors to sell a stake in its television rights and agree to sell its audiovisual division.
As part of this year’s budget, presented to the club’s Assembly of Members last Sunday, the board predicted that Barça would reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League and win the LaLiga title.
A bold and optimistic forecast that a few days later seemed a bit far from reality, as Barcelona now face a possible €40m ($39m) hit to their 2022-23 revenue if they are left out. of the Champions League.
Now they face a Real Madrid in top form, which has reached the knockout stages of the Champions League with two games to go, after drawing on Tuesday in Warsaw against Shakhtar Donetsk (1-1).
Carlo Ancelotti’s undefeated side have started this campaign where they left off last time, when they won the Champions League and LaLiga double.
On Sunday they will host their staunch rival with a virtually full squad, following the return of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who has missed the last four games due to back spasms.
Barcelona arrive with low morale and with several key players injured, mainly in defense, where Ronald Araújo, Andreas Christensen and Jules Koundé are absent.
Barcelona, however, already showed in March that they could give the bell against their rival when they endorsed him 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabéu when Madrid was in top form.
That result had little impact, as Ancelotti’s team was proclaimed champion with a few weeks to go before the end of the competition, but this season’s race is much closer.
Sunday’s game will be the eighth classic in history in which both clubs are level on points at the top of the LaLiga table.
Barcelona desperately need a win to heal their European wounds, so Sunday’s game will have all the tension and competitiveness you’d expect from a classic.