Rakitic: Barcelona the best in the world

The Croatian is refusing to underestimate the threat posed by the struggling Real Madrid ahead of a crucial Clasico clash at Camp Nou on March 22

Ivan Rakitic says he is uninterested in the current crisis at Real Madrid and that his sole concern is on nailing down a regular starting berth at “best club in the world” Barcelona.

Madrid looked formidable earlier in the season, embarking upon a 22-game wining streak in all competitions that saw them storm to the top of La Liga, as well as lift the Fifa Club World Cup.

However, since losing to Valencia just after the winter break, their form has nosedived and last weekend’s loss at Athletic Bilbao allowed a resurgent Barca to displace them at the top of La Liga.

A Champions League loss at home to Schalke has piled further pressure on Madrid’s players and coach Carlo Ancelotti ahead of the pivotal Clasico clash at Camp Nou on March 22.

However, Rakitic insists that he retains the utmost respect for the Blancos and is only interested in ensuring that he is in Luis Enrique’s starting line-up when their great rivals come to Catalunya 10 days’ time.

“First of all, I don`t like to talk about other teams because we can’t change what they’re doing,” the midfielder told reporters on Thursday. “We just want to prepare well for all of our matches. We want to win all of our games.

“But obviously when the results are not perfect, then the questions come. It’s all part of the season, which is very long. Anything can happen over the course of 10 months.

“My opinion about Madrid hasn’t changed. They are not better or worse than they were earlier in the season. Maybe they have a dynamic that needs to be changed but they will work to achieve their goals, so I’d just rather think about us.

“We are the best club in the world and this is a positive pressure that we must deal with. We live and work to be the best, and I always want to be present.

“I don’t like to be on the bench. If I did, I would have to change my career. However, the coach makes the decisions and I have to accept them.

“I just have to show him that I’m prepared, ready and at 100 per cent. Hopefully, I will be in the starting line-up for all the coming matches because I always want to play and to win.”

Rakitic will be hoping for a recall this weekend when Barca travel to Eibar, with the Croatia international having started the Catalans’ last two games on the bench.