Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti believes Barcelona are rightly favourites for the crucial La Liga clash between the two teams at the Camp Nou on Sunday.
Barca lead the European champions by a point after overhauling Madrid on the back of 17 wins in 18 games since early January.
By contrast, Ancelotti’s men have won only three of their last six La Liga games.
“Being favourites or not depends on your form. At the moment Barca are in better form than us,” said the Italian on Saturday.
[ — Five major talking points ahead of El Clasico ]
[ — COMMENT: A battle of strikeforces set to decide El Clasico ]
[ — COMMENT: Carlo Ancelotti under the spotlight ahead of vital El Clasico ]
“That aside, it is a very difficult game for both teams. We have confidence because this game gives us the opportunity to return to the top of the table.”
Meanwhile, Ancelotti dismissed suggestions that a heavy defeat like the 4-0 humiliation suffered away to Atletico Madrid last month could leave him fighting for his job.
“I don’t feel like I have a lot at stake, but that it is an important match for the club and the Madrid fans.
“It is the same for Barcelona. It is an image of the club that goes around the world and you have to show your best.
Ancelotti all but confirmed his starting line-up as early as after last weekend’s 2-0 win over Levante with Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric making their returns in that victory from long-term muscle injuries.
There had been rumours that Ancelotti could, though, change his formation to a 4-4-2 shape similar to the one that saw Madrid beat Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final last season with Gareth Bale playing in a more withdrawn role.
However, the former Chelsea boss said Bale’s responsibilities would remain the same as in every other game.
“One player doesn’t have more responsibility than another. I will ask him what I ask of the rest, to defend as 11 and attack as 11.
“He has never played in midfield. His position won’t change.”
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE