Barcelona are not Clasico favourites - Valverde

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Citing the special nature of the matchup, the Catalans' coach does not think the gap to Los Blancos will have any bearing on the forthcoming fixture

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde does not believe his side's huge advantage in the Primera Division table will count for anything when they face Real Madrid in El Clasico.

The Catalan club have a six-point lead over second-place Atletico Madrid and have opened up a gap of 11 points over Real Madrid in the La Liga table, with Los Blancos mired in fourth place after mixed fortunes in the first half of the season.

It has been a drastic reversal of fortune following the Spanish Supercopa to begin the season, when Madrid emerged victorious over Barcelona. Since, Valverde's men are unbeaten.

However, as they prepared to travel to the Santiago Bernabeu, the coach cautioned that Barcelona's success compared to their rivals means nothing for such an important match. 

"I don't think we are favourites," Valverde told reporters. "The league table is perhaps of least importance in these games, they are very special games.

"It's about the tension between the teams. They have home advantage, which is very important. So, I wouldn't say we're favourites, no."

Valverde on Clasico gfx

Barcelona are chasing three consecutive league wins at the Bernabeau for the first time in their history, and a victory would take the gap between the rivals to 14 points, though Madrid still have a game in hand. With that said, Valverde doubted El Clasico will be the deciding factor in Madrid's title hopes. 

"It won't be decisive, certainly not," Valverde said. "We don't really talk about consequences of games until the game is over.

"There is no point talking about what would happen if we win, draw or lose until the game has been played.

"No matter what happens tomorrow there is a long road ahead."

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, who held his press conference at the same time, was also dismissive when asked if a Barca win would end his team's title defence.

"No, whatever happens tomorrow we will keep working and keep thinking,"  said the Frenchman.

"There's still a long way to go and tomorrow is just three points. We know we have to play well, but it won't change anything, whatever happens.”

Along with the normal cacophony of noise, hype and loathing that comes with world football's most anticipated club match, the latest Madrid-Barcelona clash comes in the wake of Catalan elections that have done little to ease political tensions between the region and Spain's capital.

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Pro-independence parties won a narrow majority in Thursday's poll — another of the potential distractions Valverde is keen to steer the gaze of his players away from.

"Sometimes there are so many lights around this game that you are blinded and you can't see into the distance," he added.

"What we have is 11 people against 11 people and we need to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and our own."

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