Barcelona vs Real Madrid: Is it really much of a contest? | Copa del Rey 2018-19
Los Blaugranas face Los Blancos in the first leg of the semi-final of the Copa Del Rey on 6 February at Camp Nou. As much as it would be premature to assume that Real Madrid is going to get run over by the Catalan giants by the margin of ten points between the Catalans and Madrid in LaLiga, recent memory does not suggest much to the contrary.
Karim Benzema may have regained some of his form from the days when he used to be an integral part of the erstwhile BBC, scoring three goals against Girona in the CDR quarterfinals, and Barcelona may not have kept as many clean sheets in the last 20 matches or so as they would have liked, but the Blaugrana are still favourites.
I just do not see how the Los Blancos are going to put up any credible threat in the face of Ernesto Valverde's men. Especially after Barcelona's 5-1 thrashing of Real Madrid in their last LaLiga meeting with Lionel Messi watching from the stands.
At a time when Barcelona have earned the status of one the most unpredictable football teams in Europe, Real Madrid have been reduced from the fastest counter-attacking team in the world to a team that relies purely on crosses and individual performances to get over the line.
The Catalan side are brimming with creativity and force in the midfield in the form of Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal, and Arthur. Real Madrid only have Luka Modric to rely on given the current form of Toni Kroos and Santiago Solari's relationship with Isco Alarcon.
Vinícius Júnior has shown a lot of promise on the left flank in the absence of Gareth Bale. He might be able to create some problems for the Catalan outfit. Gerard Pique might find it a bit too much to keep both Vinícius and Benzema at bay.
Dani Carvajal and Marcelo are absolutely indispensable for Madrid going into this clash. Álvaro Odriozola is nowhere near ready to take on Jordi Alba, much less attack Barca on the counter from the right flank. As far as preparedness is concerned, there is only so much that you can expect from Sergio Reguilón in case Solari decides to try something new on the left side of the field.
Barca's back four are seemingly struggling this season. There have been no major changes to the defensive line-up from the previous season and yet, for a team that conceded 29 goals in entirety last season, Barca have already conceded 23 with 16 matches left in the LaLiga. However, Marc-André ter Stegen is having a solid campaign.
Los Blancos aren't doing any better. If defensively they remain a team that doesn't look like it can ever keep a clean sheet, offensively, Real Madrid has overseen its worst goalscoring drought of 481 minutes this season in the beginning (the longest drought in Madrid's history), but are coming to life in the last couple of weeks under Solari.
Sergio Ramos has a point to prove going into this match and Messi has a statement to make going into the prospect of making the dream of winning the treble for a record third time a reality. Based on LaLiga performances overall, Barcelona is the favourite, but Real Madrid is recently coming to life with Vinicius and Benzema at an extraordinary level.
The match kicks off at 9.00 pm local time.
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