In the space of six days, Barcelona will have played their most important match of the season in three successive outings, during a period which could define their season.

Pep Guardiola's side failed the first test of this series of fixtures; succumbing to defeat against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of their last four Champions League encounter.

Before Barca have the opportunity to overcome the apparent injustice of Wednesday night's result - the second leg is on April 24 - they will meet Real Madrid at the Nou Camp in what could prove to be a title deciding encounter.

Real, like their greatest of rivals, also faltered at the first hurdle, as they were defeated 2-1 during the the first leg of their respective Champions League semi-final tie with Bayern Munich.

Yet Jose Mourinho's side will have the opportunity to strike an even greater blow than that delivered by Chelsea when they meet Barca on Saturday evening, knowing victory will all but guarantee them a first title in four years.

Chelsea followed a similar game plan to that adopted by Mourinho during his encounters with Barca while manager of both Inter Milan and Real; allowing the Catalans to have the ball and relying on swift counter-attacks and set-pieces.

It, at times, appeared that one of Boris Johnson's pristine new Routemaster buses had been parked precisely in front of the Chelsea penalty area, and Barca had forgotten to top-up their Oyster card.

On another evening, however, a 1-0 victory for Chelsea could have so easily been a 5-1 triumph for Barca, who were profligate in front of goal when creating clear opportunities to score.

Barca, though, must be prepared to face a similar pattern of events against Real this weekend, and it is imperative they play with greater verve and intent than they did at Stamford Bridge.

Yes, the European champions enjoyed 72 percent of the possession against Chelsea, while the former also boasted 15 shots on target to the latter's two.

But, although Barca were characteristically patient in their approach play, they lacked the sparkle so often seen in Europe this season, and a similar performance on Saturday may not bring reward.

As with most teams, Barcelona do have the sign over Real in recent meetings, with the latter winning only once against the former during the reign of Mourinho at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Like their Catalan counterparts, Real's players will also be weary from their mid-week exertions but, despite having a dreadful record at the Nou Camp in recent times, will approach the encounter with more confidence than they have for some time.

Los Blancos can boast a lead of four points in pursuit of the league crown and, should they win the 250th instalment of El Clasico, the title race will be as good as finished.

Mourinho's side have seen their lead of 13 points trimmed drastically in little over a month, but know the destination of the La Liga trophy remains firmly in their own hands.

They do, of course, face the daunting prospect meeting a Barcelona side that has plundered 104 goals in 30 home games this season; winning 27 times and drawing on only three occasions.

The pressure, though, is arguably on the Catalans, particularly after the defeat to Chelsea, and especially because they will face a similar proposition in the shape of Real.

Even the most ardent of Madridistas will accept an 'anti-football' display in Barcelona, should it allow them to lay one hand on the Liga trophy for the first time since 2008.

The eight days encompassing both Champions League semi-finals and El Clasico will be the time in which Barcelona and Real Madrid can make significant strides towards achieving their ambitions this season.

Yet it is a period that could also leave the dreams, for this campaign at least, of one - or both - in tatters. Who will emerge victorious?

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Football
UEFA Champions League