Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta hopes the Catalans beat Real Madrid on Saturday (2 April) to honour Johan Cruyff after the club legend passed away last week. The Spanish midfielder, meanwhile, has declared himself fit to return to action after taking advantage of the international break to complete the rehabilitation from the injury problems that he sustained during the Champions League last 16 second leg with Arsenal earlier in March.
The Catalans host Los Blancos in their first game since the death of Cruyff on Thursday 24 March. Barcelona players are expected to pay a special tribute to the club icon before El Clasico but Iniesta believes the best of the tributes would be to secure the three points to give another step in their bid to win La Liga title.
"Winning El Clasico would be a great tribute to Cruyff," the Barcelona captain said in the press conference ahead of the game. "The best tribute is what he has left to everybody, especially to the Barcelona fans. Hopefully we can win for him on Saturday. It is definitely an extra motivation for us to try to win the game."
Iniesta's participation in the game came under scrutiny after Vicente Del Bosque left him out of the Spanish squad for the friendlies against Italy and Romania due to an injury which also saw him missing the last La Liga draw against Villarreal. Yet, the Barcelona midfielder returned to the training sessions earlier this week and hopes to be fully fit for Los Blancos on Saturday.
"I feel better after the discomfort I felt during the game against Arsenal," he said. "I have trained little but little with the team this week. I hope everything goes well tomorrow and Friday to be ready to play for the team (against Real Madrid)."
Iniesta, nevertheless, admitted that El Clasico doesn't come at the best time after manager Luis Enrique has been forced to prepare for the game without most of his first-team players – while the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are yet to return to Barcelona.
"It is not the ideal scenario. We would have liked to have everyone in training but it is a normal situation within the schedule we have. Maybe is not the best moment but the ones who played international kept competing and the rest train and rest a little bit. But it is what it is," Iniesta said.
Furthermore, Luis Enrique has suffered a massive injury blow ahead of the game after Jeremy Mathieu suffered a torn medial meniscus during France's 4-2 victory over Russia on Tuesday evening.
"It looks bad with Jeremy's injury," Iniesta said. Negative things do happen and are difficult to accept because we are talking about players who are important for us to achieve our targets. We have to try to minimise the negative things but injuries are difficult to control."
The Barcelona captain, meanwhile, has urged his teammates to don't take anything for granted for the game despite the fact they are 10 points clear of Real Madrid in the La Liga table and earlier in the season beat them 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
"I think is good to have a positive atmosphere but I don't really like the euphoria. We are expecting a difficult game. The little things will determined what happens in the game," he said. "We have the desire and enthusiasm to finish the season in the best way possible. Real Madrid are a dangerous team. Both teams know each other very well, and I hope the fans can enjoy the game. We will get one step closer to our objective if we win, but we will respect Real Madrid.
"I always see Madrid as a very dangerous and strong rival. Things will go wrong if we don't do what we have to do. They have many players who can make the difference. We are no longer thinking about the game at the Bernabeu or about our lead in the table. We are in a very good situation. It is where we would like to be every year, fighting for every title."