Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has warned of the strengths of Real Madrid, especially at home, ahead of the first Clásico of the season, insisting that his team must start the game well and remain fully concentrated throughout.
"They are a very powerful team in their own stadium, have very quick players, and when it seems that you're playing well and dominating, they can hit you with very fast counter attacks," Valverde explained as he addressed the media (FCBarcelona.com).
"We have to be alert to any situation because the smallest detail in these types of games can swing it in your favour. Therefore, we must be very attentive to all aspects," he added. "We are excited about this match, we come into it at a good time and we are ready to face it."
Barça hold an 11-point cushion over Real ahead of the game, an advantage that would be extended to 14 should the Catalans emerge victorious from the capital.
Valverde's team haven't lost a game since facing Real in the Spanish Super Cup back in August. The former Athletic Bilbao coach admits Los Blancos won that tie because of a very early goal scored by Marco Asensio in the second leg.
The answer on this occasion is not to give Real an inch in the opening stages.
"We have to control this game well and overcome the initial pressure," he declared. "We want to reaffirm our good form and to play a great match."
Valverde's 18 for #ElClásico!— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 23, 2017
1. Ter Stegen
2. N. Semedo
4. I. Rakitic
6. Denis Suárez
8. A. Iniesta
18. Jordi Alba
20. S. Roberto
21. André Gomes
22. Aleix Vidal
25. Vermaelen#ForçaBarça! pic.twitter.com/cMumZgK5VF
Following El Clásico, Barça will have just under two weeks off before they are back in action in the New Year, with a trip to the west coast to face Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey.