Rakitic: El Clasico not like a final
Ivan Rakitic feels El Clasico cannot be treated like a cup final as Barcelona prepare to take on rivals Real Madrid.
Barcelona head into Saturday's meeting at the Santiago Bernabeu on top of LaLiga with an 11-point lead over Madrid, with the city rivals of Zinedine Zidane's side, Atletico Madrid, their closest challengers in the table.
Ernesto Valverde and captain Andres Iniesta have insisted a Barcelona win - extending the cushion over the defending champions to 14 points - would not end the title race.
And Rakitic - expected to start in Barca's midfield - was also keen to play down the importance of the Clasico clash, with the Catalan giants seeking a third successive Bernabeu league win for the first time in the club's history.
"We don't think of it like a final," Rakitic told Sky Sports. "Valencia are close to us, so are Atletico and Sevilla.
"It is very difficult to play in LaLiga, it's not like four or five years ago with just two teams, you have to go at every game 100 per cent.
"You can't just say we'll get three points in all games and then wait for the Clasico, you have to prepare every game in the best way.
"Of course we know that a lot of people in the world just wait for this game, and we want to finish the year in the best way, but if we get this win it is not done. There are a lot more big, hard games. It's step-by-step."
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 22, 2017
Despite an injury scare after hurting his calf in the Club World Cup final win over Gremio, Cristiano Ronaldo has been passed fit to play for Madrid, while Barca are without record signing Ousmane Dembele after he failed to recover from a hamstring problem.