How Barcelona Will Line Up Against Real Madrid

Paul Wilkes@@paulwilkesfootyFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2014

How Barcelona Will Line Up Against Real Madrid

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    Manu Fernandez

    The critics are out in force after Barcelona fell to consecutive defeats in the space of a week. What better way to answer the fans and media than with a victory over their arch-rivals in a cup final.

    First, Atletico Madrid dumped them out of the Champions League as Barcelona looked tired and lethargic. Then, they lost ground on the league leaders when suffering at the hands of Granada in La Liga. Their inability to finish the numerous chances created mean the questioning has only just begun for the players and coach Gerardo Martino.

    The Copa del Rey might be their last chance of silverware for the season, as they sit four points off the top of the Primera Division, with only five matches remaining.

Goalkeeper: Jose Pinto

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    The last time the two sides met it was a seven-goal thriller, yet there was little either goalkeeper could do to prevent that from happening.

    Real Madrid's goalkeeper rotation policy and injury to Victor Valdes mean that it's two different players between the posts for this encounter.

    Jose Pinto will need to have a strong game and it's likely that Madrid will press the veteran when he has the ball at his feet.

    It's important he doesn't panic and he will need to try to play the ball out from the back, otherwise Los Blancos will look to force it to him as often as possible knowing it will come straight up field to them.

Defence: Dani Alves, Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba

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    Alvaro Barrientos

    Only Javier Mascherano is expected to survive from the back four unit that lost at Los Carmenes. Injury to Gerard Pique and Marc Bartra meant that Martino played two midfielders at centre-back.

    Carles Puyol will start his first game in six weeks and his last ever cup final for the club. The captain will be hoping to add another trophy to his illustrious cabinet.

    Martin Montoya and Adriano will make way for Dani Alves and Jordi Alba at full-back. The width provided by the two will be crucial to Martino's attacking intent.

Midfield: Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas

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    Victor R. Caivano

    Sergio Busquets will move back into his favoured pivot role after his one match at centre-back. Xavi played three matches in nine days before being rested against Granada, so he will return to the side to pull the strings.

    Against Manchester City, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, Martino has used the fab four. The formation will be depicted as a 4-3-3 by some with Andres Iniesta or Cesc Fabregas playing wide left.

    At times it will resemble this, but predominately it's a four-man midfield in a diamond shape. The fluidity of the players will ensure it's difficult for Madrid to stop the runners.

    With Carlo Ancelotti favouring three men centrally, Barcelona will look to overload them using the player advantage, maintaining control of the game and keeping possession.

Attack: Lionel Messi and Neymar

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    There's little surprise when Lionel Messi is brilliant, it's naturally what he does. However, his hat-trick and overall performance at the Bernabeu was still exceptional.

    Back in the false-nine position he will try to unlock the Madrid defence and move the centre-backs out of line, so that others can exploit the vacated space.

    Alexis Sanchez and Pedro will feel they have done enough to merit a place and tactically they are needed for their pace and vertical style.

    It's likely to be Neymar, though, that will partner the Argentine. Whether it's a political decision or Martino sees a tactical plan that others don't, he continues to give the Brazilian the benefit of the doubt.

    Neymar will roam into wide positions and won't be fixed as a centre-forward. He has a habit of important goals, even when his playing level isn't quite up to scratch.