Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic wants to win Sunday’s Clasico for Neymar, who misses the trip to Real Madrid through suspension.
The Brazil star is serving a three-game ban for sarcastically applauding the fourth official following his red card in a 2-0 LaLiga defeat to Malaga.
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.
With the champions needing a win at Santiago Bernabeu to keep the pressure on leaders Madrid, Rakitic is eager to show that they can produce their best form in the absence of the forward.
“I don’t think it needs repeating that he is an important player,” the Croatia international told Sky Sports. “[The ban] is not good, but it is what it is. We need to understand the situation and push on.
“In the past we have already shown that we can also win when Neymar isn’t playing. Of course, it would be much better to have him with us, because he is one of the two or three best players in the world.
“We have a lot of confidence and we have a very strong team. We want to show Neymar that when he is not with us we can still do it, and hopefully we can take a victory for him.”
No pudo ser. Gracias afición por el aliento y por creer en nosotros
It did not happen. Thanks to our fans for their amazing support pic.twitter.com/aP8ek0znHv
— Ivan Rakitic (@ivanrakitic) April 19, 2017
A win for Madrid would see them pull six points clear of Barca with a game in hand and give them the edge in the head-to-head record between the teams this season.
Rakitic accepts that Barca must go for the victory and has called on his team-mates to put all their focus into the final few weeks of the campaign as they aim to defend the domestic double.
“Knowing the situation we are in, we go to Madrid wanting to win that game,” he said.
“We need it and we go there with a lot of confidence. In the last few years the games there have been very good and we want to repeat that this year.
“Of course the season could have been better. We have dropped points where maybe we shouldn’t have, but that’s football.
“Sometimes big things happen to you because of small details. Now we have to pick ourselves up and look forward. What has happened is already behind us and the important thing is to improve together, in the way we always do.”