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MADRID, Spain -- Nothing hurts Real Madrid more than having to live in the shadow of arch-rivals Barcelona.
Victory in this Sunday's 'clasico' at the Bernabeu would go a long way to healing the wounds from the last three seasons.
The last time Barca visited Real Madrid's stadium they dealt the home side a humiliating 3-0 defeat.
The game ended with Ronaldinho being given a standing ovation by the irate home fans after he scored a sublime double.
That defeat was, in many ways, the low point of Real's so-called Galactico era and was one of the events that prompted the eventual exit of former president Florentino Perez.
After witnessing the collapse of their attempt to put together an all-star team, based on glamorous big-name players and attack-minded football, Real have now opted for a back-to-basics approach under new coach Fabio Capello.
The Italian has been charged with the task of introducing a disciplined, conservative approach, based on a solid defense and a well ordered midfield, rather than the more anarchic style that has characterized the team's performances in recent years.
The change has yet to produce consistent results and the new-look team slumped to their first league defeat of the campaign when they lost 1-0 at Getafe last Saturday.
Ronaldo, the club's leading striker for the last four seasons, was sent off for back chat to the referee and will miss the Barca match through suspension.
But the team were a completely different proposition in Tuesday's 4-1 away win over former European champions Steaua Bucharest, the presence of Brazilian forward Robinho adding a new dimension to the Real attack.
"We saw a team with quality and spirit and that is what counts," said Capello. "Now I'm happy.
"I said we had to forget the performance against Getafe because we can't play like that ever again. Instead, we saw a Real Madrid that played with pace and skill."
After back-to-back league titles and victory in the Champions League last season, Barcelona appear to have lost some of their edge.
A humiliating 3-0 defeat by Sevilla in the European Super Cup was an early sign of vulnerability and Wednesday's morale-sapping 1-0 setback at Chelsea exposed another chink in the previously impervious Barcelona armor.
Without injured striker Samuel Eto'o, Barca no longer find it so easy to punch holes in opposition defenses.
Also, coaches like Juande Ramos and Jose Mourinho have shown that tight marking of Ronaldinho and suffocating pressure in midfield are the secret to success against the Catalans.
Although they are not firing on all cylinders, Frank Rijkaard's side still have a three-point lead at the top of the Primera Liga, and are five points clear of Real after last Sunday's morale-boosting 3-1 victory over Sevilla.
Barca know another victory over Real will dispel any doubts about the team.
"The Chelsea defeat was an accident against a very good team, nothing more," said skipper Carles Puyol. "Things can be sorted out with a victory at the Bernabeu."
Real's biggest enemy could be overconfidence after their comfortable win against Steaua.
"I've told the players that we have the best squad in the world, that no one can beat us if we put our minds to it," Real president Ramon Calderon told Marca on Thursday.
"I'm certain that we will beat Barca."
Ronaldinho scored twice when Batcelona won 3-0 in Madrid last season.