Verdict: Home Win
Best Odds: 13/8
Real Madrid welcome La Liga rivals Barcelona in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal tie on Wednesday night. Coming off from a 1-1 from the first match, both sides have a pretty open path to the final but will have to be on top of their game to work it through.
Despite years of European success which made Real Madrid a proper international superpower, Los Blancos have endured a drier spell domestically. Having only won one La Liga title in last six years, Real Madrid have also waited for Copa del Rey success since 2014.
This season however, Real Madrid will see the Cup competition as arguably the only chance of earning domestic silverware and are expected to go all-in on Wednesday night. Real Madrid have endured a difficult time this season after Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo both left after bringing the club so much joy but it would appear as if Santiago Solari has steadied the ship. His men have lost only one of their last ten matches – a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Girona earlier in February – but did well to recover a Levante last time out with the same result in their favour. It was a game which saw Gareth Bale express frustration after refusing to celebrate the goal with his teammates but Solari hopes it turns into a desire to lead the Welshman forward against Barcelona.
Sergio Ramos returns from suspension and will be at Santiago Solari’s disposal.
Los Blancos are not expected to make any more changes as Vinicius Junior is once again expected to start the game, unlike Gareth Bale who will start from the bench.
The Cup competition might be below the Champions League and La Liga in Barcelona’s list of priorities but that does not mean the Catalans will head over to Santiago Bernabeu carrying a white flag. The very fact they are so close to getting into the final and a chance to run over archrivals while doing so is enticing enough.
Barcelona’s run into the semi-final was pretty straightforward but Ernesto Valverde will demand maximum focus and concentration as every single mistake could prove to be costly. Having drawn four of their last six matches in all competitions, it’s fair to say Barcelona have experienced a slight dip in form and will have to dig deep in order to overcome the latest challenge. They will most certainly be looking to avoid repeating the mistakes from last weekend when they relied on Leo Messi’s individual brilliance to get from behind and beat Sevilla 4-2 in a pulsating La Liga match. Such a morale-boosting win might prove to be just the incentive Blaugrana need at the moment.
Rafinha, Arthur, Jasper Cillessen and Thomas Vermaelen are all unavailable for selection.
Samuel Umtiti returned to the fold last weekend but Clement Langlet will challenge him for the starting spot this time out.
Key Factors to Consider
- Real Madrid have last won Copa del Rey in 2014
- Cup holders Barcelona lifted their 30th trophy last season
- The Catalans have reached Cup finals for the past 8 years
- Barcelona drew four of their last six matches in all competitions
- Real Madrid suffered only one defeat in last 10 games
Real Madrid capitulated at Santiago Bernabeu last time out as they suffered a shocking 2-1 defeat against Girona but they will build new trenches with Barcelona coming to town for the Copa del Rey rematch. El Clasico clashes are as ever tough to call. One thing is for sure, we’re in for yet another exciting match between two of Spain’s biggest clubs.
Verdict: Home Win
Best Odds: 13/8
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