Real Madrid and Barcelona, who are both competing for the La Liga title, will put that on hold on Thursday when the two play in the El Clasico in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal on Thursday night at the Santiago Bernabeu.
In the round of eight, Los Blancos defeated Atletico Madrid 3-1 to advance, while Xavi’s team only had one goal to upset Real Sociedad.
Real Madrid’s trophy cabinet is eager to welcome another Copa del Rey title with a quadruple still very much a possibility moving into the spring months. Los Blancos haven’t won the Copa del Rey since the 2013–14 season.
Real Madrid defeated Cacereno and Villarreal before facing Atletico in the quarterfinals, where Alvaro Morata would make a comeback to torment his former team. Rodrygo forced extra time, but Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior came up big to save Los Blancos.
Alvaro Rodriguez, Madrid’s latest gold, won over the Bernabeu fans with a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw, dropping Los Blancos seven points behind Barcelona in the La Liga rankings. Carlo Ancelotti’s team would not have an easy time against Los Rojiblancos in another Madrid derby in La Liga.
With Barcelona losing 0-1 to Almeria over the weekend, Madrid still has a chance to steal the La Liga title while they also play a first Copa del Rey semi-final since 2018/19.
Real’s semi-final matchup with Barcelona that year began with a 1-1 draw, and Real eventually lost 3-0 at the Bernabeu to eliminate them from the competition. But, with form and health issues working against Real, the latest El Clasico couldn’t have come at a worse time for La Blaugrana.
It was not surprising to see Xavi overtaken with rage after Sunday’s shock loss to Almeria because Barcelona’s need for glory in the Spanish top division has become increasingly urgent with one path to triumph in the Europa League now blocked off thanks to Manchester United.
Strangely, Luis Suarez—not the former Uruguayan star of La Blaugrana—was a key figure in Barcelona’s demise. The Colombian international assisted El Bilal Toure in the game’s lone goal in the 24th minute, preventing Xavi’s team from moving up ten points in the standings.
The Catalans, who are in need of success, still have a solid advantage of seven points, but losing consecutive games for the first time since April is not what they wanted before the Clasico.
WHERE AND WHEN?
Venue: Santiago Bernabeu
Date: March 2, 2023
Real Madrid lost Ferland Mendy to a thigh injury sustained during their quarterfinal victory over Atletico in January, and since then, Rodrygo and David Alaba, who suffered injuries during their Champions League last-16 first-leg victory over Liverpool, have joined him in the treatment room.
Alaba is undoubtedly out, but Rodrygo has returned to training quickly. Luka Modric will serve a ban this weekend against Real Betis, but he is fine to play here.
Aurelien Tchouameni, who has fully recovered from the sickness, might reenergize the Blancos midfield with Modric, who was only a substitute against Atletico last weekend, which could see Federico Valverde in the forward line.
Lewandowski’s hamstring injury, which he incurred during the weekend’s loss to Almeria, has already been mentioned as an unexpected injury blow to Barcelona. He is expected to watch this match from the sidelines, but the Catalans have not given a timetable for his return.
Xavi is optimistic that Ansu Fati’s damaged knee will heal in time for the opening leg even though Ousmane Dembele and Pedri are also out of the running due to their own thigh issues.
The 20-year-old is one option to fill in for Lewandowski in the centre, but Ferran Torres should start at position nine so Raphinha may move back to the wide area following his odd post-Manchester United injury, which involved hurting his foot by kicking a fridge in rage after his substitution.
POSSIBLE STARTING LINEUPS
Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Rudiger, Nacho; Modric, Camavinga, Ceballos; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Balde; De Jong, Busquets, Roberto; Raphinha, Torres, Gavi.