3 Things Barca Must Improve on to Beat Real Madrid in Copa 2nd Leg
Cesc Fabregas got the scoring going in the 50th minute as Lionel Messi found Fabregas who was kept onside thanks to Jose Maria Callejon. Cesc slammed it past Diego Lopez for the 1-0 lead.
Raphael Varane got Madrid the equalizer in the 81nd minute as an Ozil cross into the box was nicely headed by the Frenchman.
Final: Real Madrid 1 - 1 FC Barcelona
While I would have loved to have seen Barcelona win at the Bernabeu, I'll take the 1-1 tie, and more importantly, the road goal.
While the return leg is still a while away, it's never too early to look at what adjustments Barcelona need to make in order to beat Real Madrid at the Camp Nou.
Let's look at the three things FC Barcelona needs to work on in order to defeat Real Madrid in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal in a few weeks.
Remember, this just a reminder of what Barcelona needs to do. These things should be pretty obvious. We're not breaking news here.
Continue to Stand Strong Against the Early Madrid Speed
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To start, this one is not so much improve, as much as it is continuing something.
It seems like ever since the 5-0 beating Barcelona gave Real Madrid in 2010, Real Madrid have continuously begun every Clasico since then with one common thing: start fast.
We saw this in the first leg on Wednesday. Madrid's speed caused problems for Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol and Jose Manuel Pinto respectively.
For the second leg, Barcelona needs to continue staying strong against the Madrid offense. I point this out not just because it's obvious or because it is not a simple thing to do. I say this because there my may be a need to add help in the Barcelona back line.
We saw Pique make some great stops on Ronaldo in the first leg, and Puyol was solid as well. But in Clasicos past, this has not always been the case. Tito Vilanova may need to go with dropping back Sergio Busquets even further to stop the Madrid attack in the first few minutes of the second leg. Perhaps keep Pique back like he was during the first leg. Puyol can drop back as well.
One thing that might need to be considered is if Tito should order either Jordi Alba or Dani Alves to stay back and support the center-backs. Both Alba and Alves have enough speed to catch up to the Madrid forwards. Let's not forget that the counterattack has always been one of Barca's weaknesses.
Defend Madrid's Set Pieces
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Another one of Barcelona's defensive weaknesses has been defending opponent's set pieces.
And this applies to Real Madrid as well.
A set piece led to Barcelona losing the lead in the first leg, as a Mesut Ozil cross into the box found Raphael Varane for the equalizer.
As we've seen this season, and even for the past few years, the set piece has been a major problem for Barcelona.
Just as Javier "Own Goal" Mascherano.
Defending the set piece and corner kicks need to be improved overall but especially for the second leg against Madrid. Of course CR7 is always a threat to score from a free kick, but crosses inside the box—like Ozil's—will cause problems.
Barcelona have tall players like Pique and Busquets as well as strong players like Puyol, but it seems like they are never any match for the opponent's either getting past them or just physically overpowering them.
Oh yeah, and let's not forget defending the corner kick is always an adventure for FC Barcelona.
Any Culé will tell you they get nervous whenever an opponent has a set piece against Barcelona. I don't know why this team struggles at it, but it is needs to stop now.
Real Madrid's speedy forwards cause problems for the Barcelona defense, which lead to fouls on said forwards—usual just outside the box—and it all leads to a set piece for Madrid.
Sometimes, there is no other option than to foul the forward. But for the second leg, the Barcelona defense needs to impose their will and hold strong against Madrid's set pieces. It cost them the chance to leave the Bernabeu with the win in the first leg, and it certainly cannot happen again in the second leg.
The Early Goal Is the Key
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The early goal is the key.
I repeat: the early goal for FC Barcelona is the key.
And not just in the second leg of the Copa semifinal. It's always been the key to this Barcelona team since 2008.
Barcelona's success has come by ball possession, which then leads to a goal. But as we've seen in past Barca disappointments, including the 2010 UEFA Champions League loss to Inter Milan, the 2012 UCL loss to Chelsea and even last season's Liga Clasico loss at the Camp Nou. If Barcelona do not score an early goal at home, it can lead to panic, and potentially, a loss.
Whenever Barcelona do not score a goal by halftime, it almost seems like the Barça players get anxious, which leads to mistakes, lack of concentration and counterattacks.
Barcelona cannot go into halftime of the second leg of the Copa semifinal in a scoreless tie—and of course they cannot be losing at halftime by any means.
It'd be better that Barcelona go into halftime tied at 1-1 than to have a 0-0 scoreline at the break. They need that taste of goal in their mouths.
A scoreless tie at the half could lead Barcelona to get more desperate, take more risky passes and the defenders to move a bit too forward—all of which could lead to Madrid counterattacks.
There's nothing Tito Vilanova or Jordi Roura could teach to their players anything more about scoring. Of course Barcelona will want to score as much as possible, but the players need to understand that they cannot let those golden opportunities get away in the first half. It sets up their rhythm for the rest of the game.
No time for that, "We have 90 minutes to win" mentality.
No, you have to win the first 45 minutes. Don't think of the second half.
Once they are in the the locker room at halftime, then they have another 45 minutes to win.
The two players that need to control the pace and help win the first half of the second leg: Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi. Don Andres's dribbling and passes sets up the tempo, while Messi—who had a quiet game in the first leg—needs to be more involved to set up goal opportunities.
And most importantly: finish, finish, and finish!
Look for the early goal to lead FC Barcelona to the win over Real Madrid in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal. If Barça don't, it may be a frustrating night for el blaugrana.
FC Barcelona had enough to win the first leg, but missed opportunities to seal the win. Now, it all comes down to the Camp Nou.
It's not going to be easy, but I'm confident Barcelona will get it done.
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona
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