Messi eyeing 500 as Barca bid to reignite season in Clasico

Barcelona's Lionel Messi warms up before the match. File

Barcelona's Lionel Messi warms up before the match. File

After sealing their place in the Champions League semifinal, Real Madrid can take a huge step towards claiming a first La Liga title in five years when they host great rivals Barcelona in El Clasico on Sunday.

Neymar was in tears after the final whistle on Wednesday as Barca were held to a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou by Juventus that saw them exit the Champions League at the quarter-final stage following a 3-0 aggregate defeat. It will be as special as ever and it's a marvelous stimulus: a key game against the leader, a direct opponent.

El Clasico always has an impact on the La Liga title race, but the intrigue goes far beyond that.

They effectively sealed their title with a late victor by Cristiano Ronaldo, who celebrated by mischievously gesturing the 99,000 Barcelona supporters inside the Nou Camp to calm down.

However, there is still a last resort for Barcelona to have the Brazilian free to face Real Madrid on Sunday by taking the case to the TAD - the highest court of justice for sports in Spain.

Barcelona, which will miss Neymar because of a suspension, is in a rut. In the league, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar are the dominating stars. I'm not going to deny that we have become accustomed to it. "On Sunday there's another big match, and we'll go there to compete and try and win", Pique told ESPNFC.

Sergio Ramos Claps Back After Gerard Pique Flames Real Madrid
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique confessed Juventus "played better over the two legs and can win the Champions League this season". As for Real Madrid, a calf injury could prevent Gareth Bale from playing on Sunday.

However, Barcelona ultimately opted against appealing to a higher power. "Even if we are not in our best moment, I believe we can go there and win".

Real, however, bucked their trend of making marquee signings each summer and brought in just two players after winning the Champions League last season, Alvaro Morata returning from Juventus for 30 million euros and Marco Asensio recalled from his loan at Espanyol.

Zinedine Zidane's side have been frequently criticised in the Spanish press for their unconvincing displays this term, but the overriding quality of their squad has helped them deliver maximum points in hard games at the likes of Sporting, Leganes and Eibar.

Barca were down in third, with Villarreal the side between them and Real.

It was the 25-year-old's first sending off with the Catalans in his four seasons with the club, and was Barca's first red card in the league since October 2015 - the longest of any club.

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