Two giants of world football will clash this week as Barcelona and Real Madrid do battle in the 2013 Copa del Rey semifinals at the Nou Camp.
Having played to a 1-1 draw in the opening leg at the Bernabeu Stadium, Barcelona will enter this match as favorites with the away-goal advantage in their corner but no doubt fully aware of the attacking threat Madrid can be throughout this fixture.
The only points that Barca have dropped all season at home have been to Madrid, with the reigning champions picking up a 2-2 draw against the team looking like they will become the new Spanish champions given their commanding lead in La Liga.
Madrid will know they are capable of challenging the Catalan club here and know that they can pull off a result away from home—making this one a thrilling clash that will go down as another epic El Classico between two giants of world football.
Read on for a full preview of the match, including all the necessary details and viewing information, as well as some last-minute predictions.
Date: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Start time: 3 p.m. ET (8 p.m. British time)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
Live stream and TV info
According to Live Soccer TV, beIN Sport en Español and beIN SPORT will both show coverage of the match throughout the United States.
Sky Sports 1/HD, Sky Go and Sky Sports 1 Ireland will do the same in the United Kingdom.
The season so far: Barcelona
La Blaugrana have been simply superb throughout the 2012/13 season so far—making full amends for their second-placed finish in La Liga last year.
The Catalan club currently sit a massive 12 points clear on top of the Spanish competition, having netted a remarkable 82 goals from their 25 games to date.
They have suffered just one loss domestically and, as mentioned above, have only dropped points in one occasion at home all season—a 2-2 draw against Madrid when the pair clashed back in October.
However, having said all of that, Barcelona still come into this one with some key questions following their shocking 2-0 defeat to Milan in the Champions League.
The Italian champions proved that the dominant tika-taka style that Barca love to utilize can be shut down and that they could also be exposed on the counterattack—something that was shown also by the fact that Barca have kept just two clean sheets domestically since November.
They'll be looking for a renewed performance here to gain the upper edge over their rivals and move their way through to the Copa del Rey final—keeping their chances at a treble in 2013 still very much alive for the Catalan club.
The season so far: Real Madrid
After a slow start to the year that saw them win just once in their opening four domestic matches, Real Madrid have bounced back well in 2013 to move up to third on the La Liga ladder.
They know that catching Barcelona for the title is out of the equation, so they'll more likely to focus their full attention to the Copa del Rey and Champions League fixtures that they have against Barcelona and Manchester United, respectively.
Madrid have only lost twice since November in La Liga but have a struggling away record as a whole—winning just six times away from the Bernabeu all season.
Having said that, the trip to Camp Nou is one that Los Blancos tends to make particularly well, surprisingly, with the home side winning just one of their past four times that Madrid have played at Camp Nou. Madrid will no doubt be looking to continue that form with a strong performance here against their rivals in the Copa del Rey semifinals.
Three stats to consider
224. This fixture will be the 224th time that Real Madrid have played Barcelona throughout the rich history of the two clubs, with the teams sharing the overall wins. There have been 48 draws, 87 wins for Barcelona and 88 wins for Real Madrid in that time.
11. Barcelona have not kept a clean sheet in their past 11 fixtures across all competitions, continued with a 2-1 win on the weekend against Sevilla.
7. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored seven goals in his past seven El Classicos (matches against Barcelona) and has scored 31 goals in 32 games this year for Madrid also.
Quote of the game
Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho gave perhaps the most insightful quote of them all in the build-up to this one, telling Eurosport about the context in which El Classicos are played and how Los Blancos need to prepare for this key Copa del Rey fixture:
I prefer to stick to the lessons we have received in the past from Barcelona. Lessons of sportsmanship, of how to act in football. I do not speak about referees, nor crowd around them, nor look for yellow cards for opponents, nor conceal things.
And, of course, lessons in how to play football, which they do very well. We must try, humbly, to follow that line.
This is an isolated game, with nothing to do with past ones. Anyway, that was a long time ago. We have not played there for months. We must try and play as well as possible to get the best result possible.
Form does not matter so much in games between the best teams. The moment in which the game is played has no significance.
Both sides come into this latest El Classico under pressure and mixed expectations, with both no doubt feeling that the other is potentially vulnerable.
Barcelona have been so dominant all season long but have started stumbling of late, whilst Madrid have shown weaknesses at the back all year and barely managed to get past the last-placed Deportivo in La Liga on the weekend.
The biggest question here will be who will take their chances, with the latest form suggesting that Madrid will have an edge over Barca in that regard.
The Catalan club were guilty of not being threatening enough with the ball against Milan in the Champions League, and whilst they'll no doubt be much better here against their rivals, you still have to think that Madrid's attack will be more effective.
Barcelona's defense has been vulnerable of late, as has been noted, and Los Blancos should find some good opportunities to score here as a result.
I'd say that an early goal for Madrid gives the visitors a 1-0 lead heading into halftime before more goals for both teams straight after halftime turn this one upside down. Barca are then forced to chase two goals in order to qualify, and whilst the home side will spur them on to grab one in injury time, it ultimately won't be enough to progress past the Spanish champions.
Barcelona's chance at the treble in 2013 is gone, with Madrid gaining the upper hand over their rivals until they meet again in La Liga this Saturday.
Final score: Barcelona 2, Real Madrid 2
(Aggregate tied at 3-3; Real Madrid win on away goal rule)
What do you think will happen in this El Classico?
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