What: Spanish Copa del Rey Semi-final (first-leg)
Who: Real Madrid vs Barcelona
When: Wednesday 30th January, 2013, at 20:00 UK time
Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain
Real Madrid’s change in gear has allowed Los Blancos to display glimpses of the football that put them head and shoulders above the competition last season, scoring ten goals and conceding one in their last three competitive fixtures. If there is a time for Real Madrid to turn up in style, it is now. Jose Mourinho’s side have indentified the Champions League and Copa del Rey as their chances of success this season, but Manchester United and Barcelona stand in their way. The latter team, in particular, met the current league champions at the same stage of the Copa del Rey last season, and managed to win the first-leg fixture, also at the Bernabeu.
The nine-time Champions League winners prepared for this by beating neighbours Getafe 4-0, in a match where Cristiano Ronaldo managed a hat-trick, extending his 2013 good form. Speaking after the game, the Portugal captain showed excitement ahead of the cup Clasico: “It’s a really important game, a complicated game. We’re going to play against one of the most difficult sides in the world, so it will be a great night. We’re playing at home, which is a great opportunity to have a successful match. I hope that it’s a great night for us and we’re ready for the big match."
That said, Real Madrid’s abilities will be truly put to the test as Iker Casillas will now face up to twelve weeks on the sidelines due to injury, while regular destroyer Pepe – an important presence in recent Clasicos – continues to nurse an injury.
Favourites For The Tie
A lot has happened since the two sides last met on 7th October. Barcelona have since all but wrapped up the league title and the 2-2 result on that evening as well as their recent 3-2 loss to Real Sociedad have been the only setbacks in what has been a perfect league season for the Blaugrana. However, Barcelona now face a team that seems to be on the road to rediscovering their best form, one that will certainly be a tough test for Tito Vilanova’s side.
Similar to Real Madrid, Barcelona prepared for the upcoming Clasico in the best way possible, by thrashing visiting Osasuna 5-1, in a game where Lionel Messi managed four goals himself. On paper, the Blaugrana seem to be favourites for this tie, however that notion was dismissed by assistant manager Jordi Roura, who declared that form does not really count in these type of matches: “It’s very difficult to talk about favourites when it comes to these games”, he said.
This fact was stressed by Javier Mascherano, who highlighted the difficulty of a Clasico, despite their opponents missing key players: “It doesn’t matter how teams come into these matches, we’re aware that we're going up against a great Real Madrid side. They’ll go all out despite the fact that they’ll be missing important players.”
The numbers favour Barcelona on the night, as the Catalans have scored at least two goals in their last eight Copa del Rey matches. Returning to the Camp Nou with away goals will be crucial should they want to finish off Real Madrid.
Valencia 0-5 Real Madrid (20/01; La Liga)
Valencia 1-1 Real Madrid (23/01; Copa del Rey)
Real Madrid 4-0 Getafe (27/01; La Liga)
Real Sociedad 3-2 Barcelona (19/01; La Liga)
Malaga 2-4 Barcelona (24/01; Copa del Rey)
Barcelona 5-1 Osasuna (27/01; La Liga)
Real Madrid: Pepe; Iker Casillas; Angel di Maria (suspended); Fabio Coentrao (suspended); Sergio Ramos (suspended)
Barcelona: Jonathan dos Santos; Sergi Roberto
Players to watch
Real Madrid – Cristiano Ronaldo: His showing in the game against Getafe was a sign of readiness for the Copa del Rey Clasico. Ronaldo now has ten goals so far in 2013, and in front of his own fans, who have been very supportive lately, he will be full of confidence.
Barcelona – Lionel Messi: Whenever one name is thrown, the other naturally comes up. A fourth consecutive Ballon d’Or has placed him head and shoulders above his competition. The Argentine is now just a goal short of becoming the highest scorer in Clasico history, a feat that he will surely reach in his playing career.
The presence of Iker Casillas and Pepe in this one would have made this encounter a little more mouthwatering, but it will be interesting to see if Antonio Adan manages to keep his place between the posts, or if new/old goalkeeper Diego Lopez makes a surprise bow. Real Madrid will be confident of their chances, especially at home, but Barcelona will have that extra something that will allow them to snatch a precious result. Real Madrid 1-2 Barcelona.
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