Barcelona were able to earn a draw in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal matchup with El Clasico rival Real Madrid. It gives Barca a slight advantage heading into the Tuesday's second leg, which will take place at Camp Nou.
Cesc Fabregas scored shortly after halftime to give the defending tournament champions a lead in the opener, but Madrid tied it with around 10 minutes to go courtesy of Raphael Varane. Neither side was able to secure a winner.
It sets up an intriguing battle for a spot in the final. The advancing club will face the winner of the other semifinal, Atletico Madrid vs. Sevilla, for the championship in May. Let's take a look at the viewing information for the match, followed by a preview and prediction.
Where: Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain
When: Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. ET
Watch: beIN Sport
Real Madrid are suffering through a disappointing La Liga campaign, at least by their high standards. They are in third place, 16 points behind Barcelona, who appear on track to claim another title. Winning the Copa del Rey would help Madrid salvage a portion of the Spanish season.
The good news for fans, as illustrated in the first leg, is that regardless of the form both clubs enter an El Clasico match in, they bring out the best in each other. Anything less than a memorable encounter on Tuesday would be a surprise.
For Madrid, the pressure is on the trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Angel di Maria to control the pace of the match. They can't allow Barca to find a comfort zone where they start dominating possession and spending extended periods of time in the Blancos' half.
The only way to accomplish that is through steady buildups. Ronaldo and Co. must uses a lot of quick passes to put pressure on the Barcelona midfield and force them to do a lot of running early. Otherwise, Barca will feast on players attempting to take them on one-on-one.
Diego Lopez is the other key player for Madrid. The goalkeeper, who continues to fill in for the injured Iker Casillas, faces one of the biggest challenges of his career. How he responds after a solid outing last time will have a major impact on the match because Barca is going to get their fair share of chances.
As for the Blaugrana, all eyes will be on Lionel Messi like usual. The dynamic striker has scored at least one goal in 14 of his last 16 appearances, including a four-goal outburst against Osasuna last month. He's in fine form, as usual.
Barcelona must decide ahead of time what type of match they want to play. They can play conservative and hope their slight edge from scoring on the road holds, or play more aggressively knowing Tuesday's match could become a shootout.
If they choose the latter, it's up to Xavi and Fabregas to control the outside and make sure the pressure remains in the Madrid half. Falling into a defensive shell would be a risk, so it's unlikely Barca will take that chance.
It should be another entertaining match that goes right down to the wire. In the end, Barcelona should have enough advantages, including home field, to squeak out a win and reach the final.
Prediction: Barcelona 2, Real Madrid 1
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