Barcelona faces Real looking to rebound from European disappointment

A revamped Barca, spearheaded by new signing Robert Lewandowski, has won seven consecutive LaLiga matches and shares the lead at the top of the standings on 22 points with Spanish and European champion Real.

(From L-R): Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti and Barcelona manager Xavi

(From L-R): Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti and Barcelona manager Xavi | Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

A revamped Barca, spearheaded by new signing Robert Lewandowski, has won seven consecutive LaLiga matches and shares the lead at the top of the standings on 22 points with Spanish and European champion Real.

Barcelona's woeful European form has cast a shadow over its domestic resurgence, which will face the ultimate test on Sunday when it visits Real Madrid in a much anticipated El Clasico in LaLiga.

A revamped Barca, spearheaded by new signing Robert Lewandowski, has won seven consecutive LaLiga matches and shares the lead at the top of the standings on 22 points with Spanish and European champion Real.

However, its dreadful results in the Champions League have taken the shine off its domestic form and a 3-3 draw against Inter Milan on Wednesday left it on the verge of elimination from Europe's elite competition at the group stage for the second straight season.

Barca has won only one of its four Champions League group matches and if Inter wins against minnow Viktoria Plzen in its next match it will be curtains for the Catalans.

Crashing out at the group stage again would be a huge blow to Barcelona's finances, whose perilous state led the club's board to sell a stake in their TV rights and agree the sale of their audio-visual division.

As part of this year's budget, presented to the club's Assembly of Committee Members last Sunday, the board predicted that Barca would reach the Champions League quarterfinals and win the LaLiga title.

A bold and optimist view that a few days later appeared somewhat detached from reality, with Barcelona now facing a possible 40 million euros ($39 million) blow to its 2022-23 income should it exit the Champions League.

It now faces an in-form Real Madrid which cruised into the Champions League knockouts with two games to spare after a 1-1 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

Carlo Ancelotti's unbeaten team have begun this campaign where it left off last season when it won the Champions League and LaLiga double.

It will host its bitter rival on Sunday with a practically full-strength squad, with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois set to return after missing the last four games with back spasms.

Barcelona arrives with its morale dented and with several key players nursing injuries, mainly in defence where Ronald Araujo, Andreas Christensen and Jules Kounde are all out.

Barcelona, however, showed in March that it could spring an upset on its rivals when it delivered a 4-0 thrashing at Santiago Bernabeu when Real was on top of its game.

That result ultimately had little impact as Ancelotti's side won the title with weeks to spare, but this season’s race is much tighter.

Sunday’s game will be just the eighth Clasico in history in which both clubs sit level on points at the top of the LaLiga table.

With Barcelona desperately in need of a win to heal its European wounds, Sunday's game will likely be as tense and competitive as any Clasico can be.

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