Barcelona, Clubs, Real Madrid, Spanish Primera División, Story

Barcelona and Spain goalkeeper Sandra Panos is preparing for first clash with Real Madrid.

Barcelona goalkeeper Sandra Panos has told ESPN FC that Real Madrid must earn the right to be considered the Catalan club’s rivals in the women’s game.

Madrid announced plans earlier this summer to launch a women’s team by taking over CD Tacon, who were promoted to Spain’s top flight from the second division last season.

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They will continue to compete as Tacon for now, before changing their name and badge in 2020, but they are already installed at Madrid’s Valdebebas training base, where they will play their home games at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium.

Barca host Tacon in the first game of the season on Saturday at the newly opened Estadi Johan Cruyff. The game has been dubbed the first-ever women’s Clasico in Spain, but Panos has said she feels it will take time for the rivalry to develop, with champions Atletico Madrid still the Blaugrana’s biggest foe.

“There is more rivalry with Atletico than with Tacon at the moment,” she said. “Tacon are a new team.

“Until now, the Clasico is Atletico against Barca. The competition between the two teams has been really good and [Tacon] have to earn that position [for the fixture to be considered] the Clasico, right?

“I fear that if everything moves too quickly [with Tacon], we could lose certain values and show the part of the game which isn’t as nice, which is the spectacle instead of the sport. I would not like that to happen. I don’t want it to be so quick. I hope the growth is more controlled, not exponential.”

Tacon have shown a desire to make quick progress on the pitch. Sweden international Kosovare Asllani heads a list of signings this summer as they look to make their mark in the Primera Division. However, in Barca and Atletico they find themselves up against much more experienced sides.

“My opinion is that it’s a little soon for them [to compete for the title],” Panos added. “It’s true they’ve made great signings, but I think it will take a while for them to be able to be up there with an established team because they need to get used to playing in the same way.

“It was the same for us. It’s difficult for everything to click when you sign six or seven players. You can have great individual quality but football is about 11 players and you need those players to have a good understanding.

“I think [having Madrid] will bring significant change for the women’s game in Spain, though. The key will be when they officially change to Madrid, but even now they’re already appearing on television and in the media in a way which has never happened with other clubs. That’s big.

“And if Madrid want to keep investing in women’s football, they’re going to be able to put a lot of money in to it, and that means that all the other teams, to get to the same level, will have to increase their salaries as well.”

Barca have won the league four times but not since 2015, watching on as rivals Atletico have been crowned champions in each of the last three seasons. They did become the first-ever Spanish side to reach the Champions League final earlier this year, losing 4-1 to Lyon, but Panos said it is difficult to classify the campaign as a success due to domestic shortcomings.

“In terms of national competitions, [last year was] a failure because we are obliged to win La Liga and the Copa,” she said. “Making the Champions League final was historic but it was a bittersweet season. 

“It’s weighing on us the fact we’ve not won the league recently. We have to be realistic and the main objective is to win the league each season. To be the best team in Spain, you have to be the most consistent and it’s been a while since we were. We have the team, but due to different errors it hasn’t happened.”

Barca have invested heavily in their women’s team since turning professional in 2015. Signings like Lieke Martens have pushed them closer to the game’s elite and, despite being well beaten by Lyon in the Champions League final, Panos said she believes they are closing the gap on the French side.

“Little by little we are getting closer to the top teams, to Lyon, to Wolfsburg,” she said. “The biggest difference is with those two teams but we are getting there.

“We weren’t at our best in the final, above all in the first 30 minutes, when they scored three times and killed the game completely.

“We knew we had made mistakes. Maybe it was the nerves, the uncertainty or the excitement of making the final, but you learn from these things and little by little we are getting closer.”

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