Fierce rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona head into this Copa del Rey (CDR) semi-final first leg after both dropping La Liga points at the weekend. While Madrid rescued a draw with a late equaliser against city rivals Atlético, Barcelona were shocked in a 1-0 defeat to Almería so neither side is at their peak as they face off for ‘El Clásico’ number three of the season (one win apiece) and the 252nd overall.
Real Madrid vs Barcelona LIVE ONLINE | Copa del Rey
Although Madrid could only cut Barcelona’s league lead to seven points, they extended their unbeaten run to six matches (W5, D1), including thrashing Liverpool 5-2 in the UEFA Champions League and overcoming Al-Hilal 5-3 to win the FIFA Club World Cup. But Los Blancos haven’t waltzed their way through to this stage, with two CDR wins by a one-goal margin followed by an extra-time 3-1 victory over Atlético in the quarter-finals.
It’s been a dreadful week for Barcelona as they exited the UEFA Europa League at the hands of Manchester United on Thursday, before falling to a first-ever defeat to Almería on Sunday. That was an upset that Xavi described as his side’s “worst game of the season”, adding that the record 31-time CDR winners lacked intensity and rhythm.
Therefore, Barcelona might need to press the reset button to repeat either of their two victories across the last three meetings with their eternal rivals (L1), including a 4-0 success at the Bernabéu last March. History is on their side in one sense as they’ve lost none of the last five away H2Hs in this competition (W2, D3), though the absence of key stars Ousmane Dembélé, Pedri and Robert Lewandowski threatens to undermine that record ahead of this cup clash.
Players to watch: After becoming their youngest scorer against Atlético this century at 18 years and 226 days, Madrid’s Álvaro Rodríguez could be asked to make another late impact as two of his last three club goals came after the 75th minute. The somewhat more experienced Ferran Torres (22) netted here for Barcelona in October and may also threaten late as all five of his club goals this term arrived after the 40th minute.
Hot stat: Both teams scored in six of the last seven H2Hs (Madrid: W5, L2).