In what is agreeably Spanish football’s grandest encounter, Real Madrid will clash against league rivals Barcelona on Thursday, March 2. The Blaugrana travel to the Santiago Bernabéu for the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final against Los Blancos, the home team.
Tonight’s El Clásico comes after a frustrating and disappointing weekend for both Real Madrid and Barcelona; both teams were forced to drop points but the battle calls for a place in the finals.
Real Madrid recently rallied from behind to shatter Liverpool 2-5 at Anfield in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16. On the other hand, Xavi Hernandez side are on top of the La Liga table but recently missed out on progressing to the Europa League round of 16, after Manchester United beat them 4-3 on aggregate, to progress to the next stage.
Real Madrid has suffered a lot of injuries and will miss Ferland Mendy, David Alaba and Rodrygo Goes for the visit of Los Cules.
Real Madrid’s predicted XI (4-3-3):
Courtois, Carvajal, Militao, Rudiger, Nacho, Kroos, Modric, Tchouameni, Valverde, Vinicius Jr, Benzema
Barcelona’s predicted XI (4-3-3):
Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Balde, De Jong, Busquets, Roberto, Raphinha, Torres, Gavi
Carlo Ancelotti’s Pre-Match Presser
“It’s going to be an entertaining game, the fans are going to enjoy it, Ancelotti said. It’s a game of 180 minutes to reach the final. You have to have personality and courage to face a match like this,” he said.
“As always; we’re looking forward to this game, it’s always nice. We’re not far away from playing a final. There are many things that allow us to enjoy this moment and try to do our best.
When asked about Vinicius 1v1 abilities this is what he said: “It’s a positive thing,” he defended. “He is one of the best players in the world, who sometimes changes the game in our favour.
“It’s normal to be dependent on him. There is nothing special to say to Vinicius. We are not going to change. It’s true that Araujo is a very strong defender, but it’s going to be a very entertaining match. Hopefully Vinicius can win it,”
Ancelotti said the Super Cup defeat at the hands of Barcelona had shown them what they needed to improve and they would go all out against the Catalans.
“We have assessed everything. In the Supercopa, we lacked commitment and decisiveness, with individual mistakes that won’t be repeated. We are close to winning an important competition and we are going to compete. It’s not the decisive match, but we want to take advantage,”
The Italian boss showered praise on Rudiger but also noted that he could improve on the ball and become even better.
“He is always concentrated and focused, he has improved his level but he can improve on the ball. With him and Militao we are more solid, because without Alaba they have given solidity to the centre of defence.”
Xavi Hernandez Pre-Match Presser
Meanwhile, Xavi admits that Real Madrid are favourites especially with the Champions League maestros having dispatched Liverpool with five away goals. The Barcelona boss did however say they had the weapons to damage Madrid, who are seven points adrift Barca in second place.
“Madrid are favourites because they are La Liga and Champions League holders,” Xavi said in a news conference. “They are a tough opponent and they are in good form,
“We have won a trophy, beating them in the final, playing extraordinary football, but it’s Madrid. They are competing really well — they scored five goals against Liverpool.
“I have to be honest. I don’t mind saying it. That said, we have the weapons to do damage, we have shown that, and it will be an even tie, but they are favourites.”