Interestingly both sides come into this tie with much more level of importance attached to the cup. Real Madrid, having supposedly gained confidence from the 1-1 draw in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu went into their Champions League round-of-16 tie against United and it was David De Gea who ensured Manchester United left with a credible draw.
They played some really good football but as always they looked vulnerable in defense – something Real Madrid fans have gotten accustomed to this season. Positive thing was that, Real Madrid had 28 shots in this game and exactly 50% on target but, there was no single clear-cut chance created on the night. As it stands, Real Madrid have it all to play for at Old Trafford in the return leg – United should be happy to defend as a unit and break quickly; that would probably be their best chance of getting a goal as they could have scored more than three goals against Real Madrid the other time but for poor finishing – that makes the Copa del Rey even more important for Jose Mourinho and his men if Real Madrid must win a silverware this campaign.
Barça on the other hand, knowing they face almost an impossible resurrection against AC Milan in their UEFA Champions League clash having lost the first leg 2-0 at the San siro – One match I want to forget as quickly as possible; not because of the loss but for Barça’s unusual lack of brilliance on the night from the coaching crew to the outfield players – Barça have it all to do at Camp Nou needing to win 3-0; but, I can hardly predict a Barça clean sheet against Deportivo la Coruna in the league at the moment let alone in the Champions league against AC Milan. This season, Barça have scored in 100% of their home games and have conceded in 75% of those. With that, AC Milan should score at least a goal to bury the tie while Barça must then score four goals if Milan does score. As it stands, Barcelona are 80% out of this year’s UEFA Champions League and it might be the first time they have failed to make it to the semi-finals since 2007 when Liverpool knocked them out at this same stage.
Barcelona rested a number of key players against Sevilla on Saturday obviously with one eye on the El Clásico with David Villa returning to the side’s attack line-up, he duly scored a lovely header which makes fans of the team question his omission from the squad that faced AC Milan and of course, there are no prices for guessing who got the winning goal in Barca’s 2-1 win. Things didn’t start smoothly as Barça trailed from the first half but once the second goal was gotten, then Xavi was brought in to dictate the tempo of the game and also to limit Sevilla’s hopes of a possible come back and that did happen not because of Xavi and Barça’s dominance in possession but for Sevilla’s wastefulness.
Real Madrid will almost certainly score at the camp nou as they are so fond of the pitch almost as they are fond of the Bernabeu pitch. Okay did I smell your sarcasm? In four visits to the Camp Nou in 2012 Real Madrid won once, lost once and drew twice (W1 D2 L1) and in each of those four they scored two goals. Twice they have visited this season and have successfully scored four goals- Now you know it’s not a matter of can Real Madrid score but how many will they score? Besides Barça’s poor defensive home record this season Vs Real Madrid’s attack should produce at least a goal for the away side.
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo Vs Barcelona’s Jordi Alba
In the reverse fixture, Real Madrid battled without Angel Di Maria and Fabio Coentrao; the former is well known for his tireless style of play, dribble skill and versatility, his return is surely a boost and a nightmare for Jordi Alba. Jose Mourinho should have a selection headache for his back four this time, with every all of his defenders fit as opposed the first leg. Coentrao should take his place easily in the left-back position since Marcelo has failed to find form. Pepe and Ramos are back, and should pair with Arbeloa playing in the right-back position. Star of the reverse fixture, Raphael Varane should be on the bench, this is because his partnership with Pepe is calamitous; besides, Sergio Ramos looks a more decent center back than he is a right-back.
The midfield trio never changes in the big games except for unavoidable circumstances so, Ozil, Alonso, Khedira – Ronaldo, who has scored five goals in his last four visits to the Camp Nou and Angel Di Maria should be on the flanks and the biggest headache is the center forward isn’t it? Oops! Benzema is back from injury and is likely to play some part but I suspect Higuain would start upfront.
The next question is Madrid’s aggressiveness. Barça could really use it against them. 8 red cards in 13 games in 2013 say it all.
Jordi Roura is still taking charge of the team in the absence of Tito Vilanova. Barcelona should start with mercurial cup goalie Manuel Pinto in goal; no one can fault Dani Alves anymore, he will easily takes his place at right-back, Puyol and Pique remains Barcelona’s regular center back while Jordi Alba has no certain threat to his position. Barça hold a slim advantage and should look to protect it jealously, patient passers should be deployed to frustrate Real Madrid. What does this imply? Xavi, Cesc and Busquets (who was recently named the Catalan player of 2012) should be starting. David Villa could be on the bench yet again except Roura is ready to take Cesc Fabregas out of the midfield a play Iniesta there instead. Else, the front line should see Iniesta, Messi and of course the tireless Pedro.
Gone are the days we thought Real Madrid needed the Copa Del Rey more. Barcelona have recently found their Champions League hopes hanging by a thread and even though they lead the Primera table comfortably, doing the double should be a motivating factor.
For Real Madrid, the League is gone. Even if they get a win over Barça in the weekend in the La Liga clasico –oh! You didn’t know right? Now they have to get their arcs right, this is certainly their most realistic chance of a silverware plus a date with either Atletico or Sevilla in the final.
Article written by Tolu Olorunmoteni