It's Clasico week but Real Madrid and Barcelona's seasons could be in tatters BEFORE Sunday's showdown if they lose in the Champions League... their perilous finances mean victories are essential for both sides
Losing the Clasico can be a season killer but both Barcelona and Real Madrid have must-win games just days before Sunday's showdown - because losing in the Champions League could cost them both a fortune.
Barcelona have budgeted for reaching at least the quarter-finals, Real Madrid will want the same after making it to the semi-finals last season. Not getting out of the groups will cost both clubs €20million – €9.6m from not making it out of the group and the further €10.4m that comes from getting to the last eight.
That means, going into this week's games neither side can afford to hold anything back for the weekend. And nerves in the two cities regarding the midweek fixtures are greater than anticipation for the game at the Camp Nou on Sunday.
Real Madrid started their campaign well but defeat by Sheriff leaves them needing to take maximum points from their double header with Shakhtar to take the pressure off.
They will not want to go behind. It's now been 13 games since they have been able to come back from behind in Europe – 2018 was the last time they conceded first and still won.
It doesn't help that Shakhtar will play them without fear. They beat them last December and if they win both these games then they will become the first team to beat them three times consecutively since Juventus in 2009.
Injury problems that seemed serious at the weekend appear to have eased and Carlo Ancelotti will be able to field Nacho, Eder Militao, David Alaba and Ferland Mendy.
With Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos back in midfield and Fede Valverde's energy up top with Vinicius and Karim Benzema, it's only a fit Dani Carvajal short of a full-strength side for Ancelotti – in other circumstances he might have rested some ahead of the Clasico but there is very little margin for error.
And for Barcelona there is simply no margin for error after losing their first two group games in the Champions League for the first time ever.
Ansu Fati could be the cure for their current ailments. They continue to look frail defensively but with the 18-year-old Spain forward – already having scored twice in the 116 minutes he has played since returning from injury – they have someone who can pin the opposition back at the other end of the pitch far from Marc Andre ter Stegen's goal.
Barcelona also have injured players returning, although not perhaps at the speed at which Ronald Koeman would want. Sergio Aguero played his first minutes in a Barcelona shirt at the weekend and could be involved off the bench again on Wednesday night.
He still looks some way off starting a game and Ousmane Dembele remains way short of being able to come off the bench. When they are both 100 percent, Barcelona's forward options with Memphis Depay, Ansu and Philippe Coutinho look far better than they did before the last international break when Koeman was trying to break down teams with only Depay and Luuk de Jong.
Dinamo Kiev will be a tough test – only a year ago Mircea Lucescu brought his team to the Camp Nou and, despite multiple coronavirus absentees, lost narrowly 2-1.
The midweek games are significant for the managers too. Koeman has had the vote of confidence from president Joan Laporta and Ancelotti is still some way from needing one from Florentino Perez but both know the next two matches would change everything.
If Barca lose both games then Xavi's name will resurface as the man who needs to come in now and save the club's season. If Madrid fall to two defeats then the decision to re-hire Ancelotti will be under the spotlight.
Real Madrid managers often don't survive Clasico defeats – as Rafa Benitez and Julen Lopetegui will attest. And a loss at the Camp Nou, coming after a second successive reverse in Europe, would be tough to take.