Thursday, May 23, 2019

Valverde: Real Madrid semi-final a Clasico twice over

SoccerNews in La Liga 5 Feb 2019

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Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde says facing rivals Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-finals makes the tie a “Clasico twice over”.

Madrid head to Camp Nou on Wednesday for the first leg of the last-four clash having been thrashed 5-1 on their LaLiga visit to Barca in October.

But Madrid are in good form under Santiago Solari, having won their past five games in a row in all competitions, while Barca were held 2-2 by Valencia last time out.

Lionel Messi suffered a thigh injury in that game having scored twice to bring Barca level and Valverde has indicated he will not rest his captain unless he proves his fitness.

Messi missed out on October’s 5-1 win, a result that contributed to the sacking of Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui, and Valverde is enticed by the prospect of the clash.

“It’s a Clasico twice over,” Valverde told a news conference. “Of course it’s a special game, it’s a semi-final against a very big team.

“It does make it even more attractive, having the chance to get to the final, and it’s the same for them too.

“When we prepare the game obviously we have the reference of the players and how they performed [in the 5-1], but there was a different morale [at Madrid] at that time, that counts for a lot.

“Madrid tend to be very strong at Camp Nou, the last game we were strong and won clearly but they were in a delicate spot and they’re better now. We’ll see the best of Real Madrid tomorrow, that’s what we’ve seen in the last few games.”

A semi-final against Madrid adds to a complicated fixture list for Barca, but Valverde feels a busy schedule should not be used as an excuse for either side.

“Fixtures lists are always difficult at this time of year, throughout January, and with this semi-final with two top-level games, league games and the Champions League starting soon, we all need to be careful,” Valverde added.

“But we still haven’t hit the decisive part of the season yet. We need to use all the players we can and we’ll analyse if we need to make changes tomorrow or sunday. We have a week off next week, no Champions League game, so we will get a rest then.

“The fixture list is tight for everybody, sometimes you get more rest, sometimes your opponents get more rest. So it’s another time of the season they will benefit and other times it’s negative. It affects us all in exactly the same way, it could be

Valencia or Bilbao or anybody, it happened to us just a week ago.

“We’ve done well and got a draw the other day from an adverse situation, losing 2-0. The fact two teams are in such good form at the moment makes it more attractive and we’re really looking forward to the game. Everyone will be looking forward to seeing a top-quality game.”

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