MADRID (AP) — Defending champion Barcelona travels to Spanish leader Real Madrid for the season's second "clasico" with its title ambitions on the line.
Barcelona beat Madrid 2-1 in their first meeting this season. But how things have changed since.
Madrid has not lost a match in any competition since that October setback, going unbeaten in 31 games to find itself four points ahead of its rival and three points up on second-place Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona, meanwhile, has slipped to third but is coming off two morale-boosting victories going into Sunday's game at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Here are five things to know about the 29th round of the Spanish league:
BALE LOOKS TO IMPACT
Gareth Bale wants to make a bigger impact against Barcelona this time after a muted performance in his debut clasico.
Bale has found his rhythm since a rash of injury setbacks tempered the start of his career at Madrid, with the Welsh winger going into the game on the heels of a two-assist performance in Tuesday's 3-1 Champions League win over Schalke.
"I feel great, full of confidence," said Bale, who has scored 14 goals and provided 17 assists.
While Bale is building up steam as the season reaches its finale, Barcelona counterpart Neymar appears to be sliding in the opposite direction as the Brazil striker never came off the substitute's bench in Barcelona's 7-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.
It's been an unfamiliar season for Lionel Messi, so beating Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo on his home turf could provide some degree of satisfaction.
Messi has found his rhythm after several injury setbacks, with the Argentina forward scoring 12 goals in his last nine games to take his season tally to 31.
"We hope to play our best and earn a result that keeps us in the hunt," Messi said. "This is a unique opportunity to move in on Madrid. It's not going to be easy going up against a great team, away from home, but we'll give it a shot."
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