(CNN) -- Barcelona and Real Madrid have both played down suggestions that Saturday's "El Clasico" showdown will decide the Spanish league title.
With eight matches left in the season, the two bitter rivals are locked on 77 points at the top of the table with Real ahead by just one goal on "for-and-against" differential.
Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola said his team would treat the match -- traditionally the biggest fixtures in the La Liga schedule -- as "a final" but insisted that defeat would not be terminal for either team's title hopes.
"If there were only three or four games to go I would say it is an almost decisive match, but when there are seven left afterwards it's not so much -- but it is very important," he told reporters on Friday.
"It's not a final, but we need to play as if it was one. It's a game where the winner will strike a blow to the other."
Barcelona triumphed 6-2 in the Spanish capital last season to move seven points clear with four games to play, and cruised to the title.
Since then, Real replaced interim coach Juande Ramos with Manuel Pellegrini and new club president Florentino Perez underwrote a huge spending spree to sign stellar stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso.
"The 6-2 is unrepeatable. These things happen once in a lifetime, no more," Guardiola said.
Barcelona won the corresponding home fixture 1-0 in November with a goal from striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, so a draw would give the Catalans the advantage on head-to-head record if both teams end the season still level on points.
Pellegrini, with his future in the balance, knows that Real need to win.
"We will go out for the victory," the Chilean told reporters on Friday. "A draw is always a bad result for my team, we've never gone out looking for a draw. We've picked up a lot of victories away from home, and more at the Bernabeu, and this game is not going to be an exception.
"We have to show why we are leaders. We've always gone out to take the game to our opponents from the start and it will be no different on this occasion.
"The league does not end tomorrow. There will still be 21 points in play and matches against difficult opponents. This is an important match, but whoever wins will make a big mistake if they think they have won La Liga, and the same goes for whoever loses because there will be seven more matches to play."
Barcelona will again be without Ibrahimovic, who injured a calf in the warmup to last weekend's 4-1 win over Athletic Bilbao and then missed the Champions League crushing of Arsenal in which Lionel Messi scored all four goals.
France fullback Eric Abidal also misses out, having suffered a thigh injury on Tuesday, but central defender Gerard Pique returns after his European ban despite receiving a similar knock against Bilbao.
Real will again be without injured Brazilian playmaker Kaka, who has not featured since the Champions League last-16 tie with Lyon on March 10.
Midfielder Alonso and defender Sergio Ramos return from suspension after missing Sunday's 2-0 win at Racing Santander, but Pepe and Royston Drenthe are still sidelined.
Madrid have won 50 of the 79 encounters between the two teams since 1929, losing just 15 times.