Defending La Liga champions Barcelona coach Quique Setien believes that Real Madrid are under much more than his side before the all-important El Clasico on Sunday which will have a major impact in deciding the winner of the domestic league title.
The Catalan club had lifted eight of the last 11 La Liga trophies and are going into Sunday's game at the Santiago Bernabeu with a two-point lead over their rivals, who recently faced defeats at the hands of Levante and Manchester City.
Jordi Alba is back for Barcelona
"For Real Madrid this game is vital and much more important than it is for us. It is a key and decisive game for them, it's also important for us but perhaps not as important," Setien told a news conference on Saturday. "It could be a very important day, a victory would give us a lead of five points but in these games the past is quickly forgotten about. I expect a very close game, we'll see who deserves to win it more."
Setien has been boosted by the return of left-back Jordi Alba from injury while Gerard Pique has made a quick recovery after rolling his ankle in Tuesday's 1-1 draw at Napoli in the Champions League. Long-term injuries to Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez mean he will either field 17-year-old Ansu Fati or new signing Martin Braithwaite in attack alongside Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi, who has scored a record 26 times in the fixture.
Setien has never coached in Spain's flagship game
The 61-year-old Setien has never coached in Spain's flagship game before but has a strong record at the Bernabeu, overseeing two victories there as coach of Real Betis. The Catalans also have a remarkable record in recent matches at the home of their eternal rivals, winning their last four league games at the Bernabeu.
"I have always been aware of the importance of the 'Clasico' when I've been watching it from my sofa or in the stadium. If we win I'll be happier for the fans than for myself, I'm aware of the responsibility I have," Setien said. "I would love to continue the great run that I and the club have there, although you can never go to the Bernabeu feeling relaxed. Real Madrid are always dangerous and perhaps even more when they are in situations like this."
(With agency inputs)