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Barca, Real in must-win clash

TOP STORY
By Mark Gleeson

Sunday’s Classico between Barcelona and Real Madrid, which is included in a likely R2-million Soccer 13 pool, comes at a time of uncertainty for the two Spanish giants.

Monetary woes threaten their respective futures as both are battling to find the cash to try and keep up the prolific purchasing power they once commanded.

They are not as overpowering on the field as they used to be and look likely to struggle to maintain a dominant role in La Liga this season.

Success in Sunday’s clash at Camp Nou is vital for the psyche of both. Barca did get a boost at the weekend with a home victory over Valencia, which has given their beleaguered coach Ronald Koeman some breathing space.

He has been on the cusp of departing after their poor start to the season and some public spats with club president Joan Laporta.

Real did not play at the weekend because they had too many players arrive back late from World Cup qualifiers in South America and had a Champions League tie against Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine yesterday.

Real are in second place in La Liga but lost to Espanyol away in their last game in a display of vulnerability.

It’s a grand weekend with a R500,000 add-in boost to Soccer 10 pools on Saturday and Sunday and a R40-million Soccer 10 pool, plus mouth-watering clashes like Serie A champions Inter hosting Juventus and Roma taking on Napoli.

After a poor start Juventus continued to climb up the table last weekend, but their 1-0 triumph over Jose Mourinho’s Roma was somewhat fortunate.

Napoli have a 100% record after eight games to lead the standings, while Inter have lost only once and are in third. But it could be Juve and Roma who triumph.

HIRED/FIRED: Orlando Pirates have said they have no plans to hire a coach to replace Joe Zinnbauer and will stick with Fadlu Davids and Mandla Ncikazi for the time being.

MISSING: Rushine de Reuck and Divine Lunga were missing from Sundowns’ line-up last weekend in DR Congo. It remains to be seen if they will play today in Durban against Lamontville Golden Arrows and in the home Champions League tie at the weekend.

BACK IN ACTION: Ansu Fati is already setting records for Barcelona following his return from a knee injury that sidelined him for nine months. He has two goals from four games since his comeback.

WHO’S HOT: Mohamed Salah’s goals for Liverpool in recent games have been out of the top drawer. He has seven league goals, topping the charts along with Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy.

WHO’S COLD: Phakamani Mahlambi will miss the rest of the season at Chippa United after suffering a serious Achilles tendon tear. He joins Rodney Ramagalela on the long-term injury list.