Real Madrid vs Barcelona Prediction and Preview
It is the third time these teams have met this season and they will meet twice more before it’s over. Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are both vying for a place in the Copa del Rey final in May, starting with the first leg at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu on Thursday night. We look ahead to the game with our Opta preview and prediction.
Real Madrid vs Barcelona: The Quick Hits
- The Opta supercomputer gives Real Madrid a 47.2% chance of beating FC Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi-final on Thursday night.
- Carlo Ancelotti has lost five times in 10 games against Barcelona.
- Real Madrid have been eliminated in three of their last four two-legged ties in the Copa del Rey against Barcelona.
Which one of the Clásico teams is in the ascendency? Which team’s season is suddenly crashing down before our eyes? The answer to this should be more straightforward than it is but it’s complicated.
Barcelona are clear favourites to win LaLiga with a seven-point lead. Real Madrid just celebrated a historic win at Anfield, coming back from two goals down to beat Liverpool 5-2 in the Champions League.
But Barcelona just crashed out of the Europa League, marking Xavi’s fourth elimination from Europe in 18 months at the club. They just lost to Almería for the first time ever and have given Real Madrid hope in a LaLiga title race that should be over.
‘It was the worst game of the year for us,’ Xavi said after the game. The lightest of murmurs about his suitability for the job can be heard around the Camp Nou now. Meanwhile, in Madrid, they drew with Atlético Madrid at the weekend and lost to Mallorca at the beginning of the month. They know Barcelona aren’t all that but still find themselves chasing their Clásico rivals in the league.
The good news for both sides is that regardless of what came before it, El Clásico offers fresh hope to generate good vibes around the club. The other edge of that same sword is that a loss can derail a season. Real Madrid and Barcelona play each other three times in the next month and those games will go a long way to decide their respective seasons.
This will be the 252nd Madrid vs Barcelona game ever played. Real Madrid have already clocked 100 victories in the fixture with Barcelona just behind on 98. There have been 52 draws. Los Blancos have won six of their last eight games against their Clásico rival.
This is a chance to put one foot in the final against either Osasuna or Athletic Bilbao, who play in the Spain’s other Copa del Rey semi-final.
For Barcelona, they travel to the Spanish capital without Pedri or Robert Lewandowski with both injured. Lewandowski is suffering from his first goal drought at Barcelona – drought being relative here as he has still scored three in the last eight (one of them a penalty against Manchester United) but even still, he will be missed.
Barcelona look like a different team without Pedri, who lack clarity and creativity in the final third without their young talisman. The loss of Lewandowski compounds that problem and Xavi will have to come up with a novel solution ahead of Thursday’s meeting. Sergio Busquets is back for the Blaugrana, which does give them options in midfield. Frenkie de Jong will likely get pushed further forward but it hasn’t been ideal team news in recent days for Xavi.
Real Madrid are missing David Alaba, who suffered a hamstring injury against Liverpool and Ferland Mendy, who is a longer term absentee. Nacho has been excellent in his stead when called upon all season and should replace the Austrian at left-back. Rodrygo suffered a muscle injury a week ago but might be back for the Clásico on Thursday night. Marco Asensio, who is fighting for a new contract at the club, has been in excellent form recently and could replace the Brazilian if he doesn’t make it back in time.
Barcelona 3-1 Real Madrid: 15 January 2023 (Spanish Super Cup)
The most recent meeting between these two sides came in the Spanish Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia. Barcelona bossed that one and took home Xavi’s first trophy with a 3-1 win. Prior to that one, in the league, Real Madrid won 3-1 even though Barcelona dominated large spells of that too. That’s the one, Madrid fans will tell you, that really mattered. Barcelona fans, if given a truth serum, would probably agree. Pedri and Lewandowski both scored in that Super Cup game but will miss the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg. For that reason, this game will look entirely different to the previous two games played this season.
The good news for the neutral is that not one of the last 13 games played between these two teams with Real Madrid playing as the home team has ended in a draw – six victories for Real Madrid and seven for Barcelona. The majority of those games were played during the Lionel Messi era, a player who defined the Clásico for almost two decades.
Xavi said the Almería game was the worst of the season and that he was disappointed after the game. He even went so far as to apologise to the fans for letting a ‘golden opportunity’ slip through their hands. They lost 1-0 thanks to El Bilal Touré goal and while Barça huffed and puffed to try and find an equaliser, it never felt like it was coming. Almería, truth be told, were comfortable. Xavi played Eric Garcia and Sergi Roberto while resting Jules Kounde and Ronald Araujo and it backfired spectacularly.
They have been knocked out of the Europa League and failed to capitalise on Real Madrid’s dropped points last Saturday night against Atlético Madrid in the last week. It’s unfair to say the wheels have come off at the club given their still commanding lead at the top of the league table but the potential is there for a crisis, there’s always potential for a crisis at Barcelona. A loss to Real Madrid would fix the spotlight squarely on Xavi after a rough week for the club.
Real Madrid just beat Liverpool in a 5-2 thriller in the Champions League last 16 first leg at Anfield. They followed that up with a relatively flat performance against Atlético Madrid, which saw Diego Simeone’s side take the lead before 18-year-old Álvaro Rodríguez equalise on his debut.
Ancelotti’s side have played a lot of football in the last two months and he has been rotating his team to keep them fresh. With so much success at the club in recent years, you can excuse the players for taking time to grow into a season. We are entering the endgame now and Real Madrid are still alive in three competitions. This is when regular seasons become seasons worthy of a special DVD. They are not playing particularly well but let’s suspend judgement on their season until it’s over.
Players to Watch
Real Madrid: Federico Valverde
Ancelotti has had to rotate his midfield for a number of reasons this season and has used a variety of lineups. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos need more rest than they used to, Aurélien Tchouaméni has been absent for some time now with injury and illness and they have basically had to work things out without the French midfielder since the World Cup. Dani Ceballos has played well when called upon but the one consistent this season has been Fede Valverde. The link between attack and defence, the motor that connects the two.
Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema make up part of a devastating attack but Valverde, who often flies under the radar, has scored nine goals this season in LaLiga and the Champions League, with four assists as well. He doesn’t lead any statistical categories, but he hovers around the top in a variety of them. From tackling to passing and dribbling, he offers Madrid solutions whenever they need one. He has scored three times in 11 games against Barcelona, which is more than against any other opponent.
Barcelona: Ansu Fati
It’s hard to know what team Xavi will pick for the game against Barcelona given the news of Lewandowski’s injury. He has no clear replacement in the squad. Ousmane Dembélé is still out, and Ansu Fati is returning from a bruised knee.
We have picked Ansu Fati as the player to watch because if ever there was a moment for the young star to lead the line, that time is now. Xavi will most likely go for Raphinha, Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres as his three in attack with Fati playing as a false nine. He burst on the scene as a teenager, but injuries have stalled his ascent into super stardom. He has played 1,252 minutes this season but has only started 10 games. This is the best chance he will get to prove to Xavi he is worthy of more playing time.
Real Madrid vs Barcelona Prediction
Barcelona are struggling with injuries and are coming off elimination from Europe and a loss to relegation-embattled Almería. Real Madrid are just warming up for the business end of the season, which is that they live for, and the supercomputer knows what that means.
It gives Real Madrid a 47.2% chance of taking the lead back to the Camp Nou for the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final. Ancelotti’s side are still in the running for a treble. The Champions League might be a tall order but it’s Real Madrid so nobody can write them off. A LaLiga comeback seems highly unlikely. The Copa del Rey could be Ancelotti’s only silverware this season.
Barcelona have been eliminated from Europe but have a seven-point lead in LaLiga. Xavi has already won the Spanish Super Cup but the fans are hungry for trophies. We only give them a 25.5% chance of success at the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday night.
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