Clasico week is upon us, which begins with Barcelona hosting Real Madrid in the second leg of the Copa Del Rey semifinal, enjoying a slight lead thanks to the away goal in the 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu almost a month ago.
When it comes to form, you could say Real Madrid are feeling a little bit more confident going into this match. They’ve already drawn at the Camp Nou this season in the league, and managed a minimal 3-2 loss back in August, en route to winning the Spanish Super Cup. They didn’t get the result they wanted in the Champions League (1-1 at home against Manchester United), but it leaves them in the same situation, more or less.
The league counts for nothing, what’s important for this season is knocking Barcelona out of the Spanish Cup and winning the Champions League. For them, for the legacy of Jose Mourinho and who knows, maybe it has to do with the future of Cristiano Ronaldo as well. Their recent results include the away win at Deportivo, home win over Sevilla and Rayo Vallecano, with a loss to Granada coming after their draw with Barca.
Real will not press all over the pitch like they usually do early on at the Santiago Bernabeu, but they won’t play completely like AC Milan, which means a very tight formation, with all 10 field players in their own half. Mourinho has tried opening up completely and closing down completely in the past, which hasn’t worked. Trying to press Barcelona and specific players in key areas, taking advantage of their weak defense on counter attacks, is the best approach.
And while everyone except for Adriano is healthy for Barcelona, they are slightly worried about their conceding record, giving up a goal in 11 consecutive matches in all competitions. Jordi Alba may be a special player when he crosses the halfway line and supports the attack, but it is hurting Barcelona on defense, with Vilanova/Roura not finding the right kind of answer to make up for his forward strides.
Another problem for Barcelona has been finding someone to play next to Lionel Messi, and how to get Messi out of rough spots. Maybe moving him to the right wing for longer stretches of the game, while giving David Villa more time on the pitch, while not leaving Andres Iniesta to be wasted on the wing, will be some of the changes we will see in the second leg.
Prediction – Anything can happen, but we have to choose something. Real Madrid have a tendency this season to come up with results in big matches, but the general feeling is that they’re the slight favorites going into this one. Barcelona usually put up a masterclass when that happens, and while I’m not expecting something out-of-this-world brilliant, I do expect them to go through to the final.