Barcelona v Real Madrid Cheat Sheet
Barcelona v Real Madrid
Knock-out Clásicos are always a bit more fun and that may well be the case as Barcelona welcome Real Madrid to the Spotify Camp Nou on Wednesday night with a 20:00 BST kick-off for the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg. The game will be shown live on BT Sport in the UK.
The home team hold a 1-0 lead from the first leg but Real Madrid recorded a 6-0 thrashing of Real Valladolid at the weekend and come with their confidence sky-high as they hope to overturn the first leg result.
Two-legged Clásicos are always a little strange and we saw that already in the first leg, when Barcelona set out with a very defensive approach at the Bernabéu, one that ultimately paid off as they secured an uncharacteristic smash-and-grab 1-0 victory.
These kinds of ties are all about playing the long game and Xavi has shown a new-found level of pragmatism this season that suggests he would be happy with a draw on Wednesday night, since that would be enough to get the job done.
Given their recent dominance in this fixture and their recent form overall, Barcelona absolutely have what it takes to win on the night again. The Catalans have won all three of the other Clásico meetings to have taken place so far in 2023 and, with Carlo Ancelotti emphatically ruling out the idea of overhauling his line-up for this game as a means of shifting Clásico momentum back in his favour, we should see more of the same on Wednesday.
But, a double chance bet is probably the way to go here, because a 0-0 or 1-1 late in the game would be enough for Barcelona to reach the final and Xavi has shown that, in those circumstances, he’d be willing to adopt a pragmatic approach and settle for the draw in 90 minutes.
This looks like it could be a low-scoring Clásico, for a couple of reasons. As mentioned above, Barça should adopt a more defensive approach if they reach the final stages of the game with their one-goal advantage intact. They won’t chase goals just to impress the home crowd, as the priority here is winning the tie. And, if Barcelona do go defensive, they are more than capable of achieving a clean sheet. So far this season, they have conceded just three goals at the Camp Nou across their 14 home matches against domestic competition, with Marc-André ter Stegen in excellent form and Ronald Araújo possessing the skillset needed to keep Vinícius quiet.
From a Real Madrid point of view, Ancelotti stated pre-match that his team “won’t go crazy in search of goals”. In other words, Real Madrid aren’t going to go all out blitzing Barcelona from minute one, aware that they’re just one goal away from levelling the tie. Talk of such a conservative approach isn’t what most Madridistas wanted to hear from their coach, but it could be good news for anyone backing the under.
Fresh off scoring the third-fastest hat-trick in Real Madrid history in LaLiga at six minutes and 30 seconds against Real Valladolid on Sunday, Karim Benzema will again lead the line for Los Blancos as Real Madrid look to overturn a one-goal deficit from the first leg.
Real Madrid have registered 11.3 shots per 90 against Barcelona in their meetings this season, with Benzema recording 2.8 of those, and the chances are that he will be the main man in Carlo Ancelotti’s attack once again at Camp Nou.
While Barcelona are solid defensively, much of that is down to Ter Stegen, and particularly given the defensive injuries that Xavi has to contend with, Real Madrid fans will be optimistic that Benzema will have chances to get shots away against the German goalkeeper just as he did when he had four, two in each half, against Barcelona in LaLiga only two weeks ago.
One of the battles which will decide this tie is likely to be Vinícius Júnior up against Ronald Araújo down Real Madrid’s left flank, and that will put the Barcelona defender’s abilities to the test as he engages in another physical battle with the Brazilian.
In three Clásicos this season, Araújo has committed an average of 2.3 fouls and he comes into this match having committed two or more fouls in three out of his last four appearances. That means that he could again fall into the trap of committing two or more fouls against the tricky winger at Camp Nou.
At 27 fouls per 90, referee Juan Martínez Munuera is close to the LaLiga average, but he actually ranks in the top five with fouls per tackle with 0.89 fouls per tackle this season. Given that this battle is likely to lead to a number of Araújo tackles on Vini, with 34 duels between them this season, Araújo is likely to keep Martínez Munuera busy.
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