It’s the fifth El Clásico of the season and the last chance to see these two clubs fight it out during the current campaign. We look ahead to the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg at the Camp Nou with our Barcelona vs Real Madrid preview and prediction.
Barcelona vs Real Madrid: Quick Hits
- The Opta supercomputer gives Barcelona a 43.0% chance of beating Real Madrid in Wednesday night’s Copa del Rey semi-final second leg.
- Real Madrid have won just one of their last four games against Barcelona.
- Barcelona have won five games in a row since a slump in February when they lost to Manchester United and Almeria.
It may be the biggest head-to-head in Spain (possibly even world football), but it’s difficult to put Real Madrid and Barcelona in any particular category this season.
Barcelona lead LaLiga by 12 points in front of their Clásico rivals but were knocked out of both the UEFA Champions League and Europa League while looking disjointed. Conversely, Real Madrid are in a UCL quarter-final after hammering Liverpool, but sit 12 points behind a Barcelona side who have looked average for large spells this season.
There have been four games between these two sides this season but none have had the kind of bite we associate with this fixture.
Real Madrid won the first meeting at a canter but since then, Barcelona have gotten the upper hand including a Spanish Super Cup victory in Saudi Arabia.
Xavi’s side have won in a variety of ways this year including a true backs-to-the-wall performance against Real Madrid in the first leg of this tie.
There is some consternation around the Camp Nou regarding Xavi’s style and his willingness to eschew the club’s dogmatic style of play. The manager’s counter to any doubts is that they sit 12 points clear of Real Madrid in LaLiga and have the chance to win a treble during his first full season in charge. His detractors will point to Xavi’s poor form in Europe and how easily they were dealt with by Manchester United in the Europa League having been knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages.
Real Madrid are just as confusing this season. Ancelotti says he is happy at the club and would stay until 2034 as long as the club are happy too. The truth is that he has been linked with the Brazil national team job and his side sit so far behind a Barcelona side who – to the eye – don’t feel like a side that’s much better than Real Madrid.
Ancelotti still has a chance to win the Champions League with a tie against Chelsea on the horizon, and if he wins that then it will remedy some of the doubts surrounding his future. Lose to Barcelona in this Copa del Rey game and he will be forced to accept that he couldn’t get the better of a team that many at the Santiago Bernabeu believe to be mediocre.
Barcelona have a growing injury list but also have the luxury now of resting players ahead of key fixtures. Pedri remains out and has left a big hole in midfield since suffering injury during Barcelona’s UEL clash with Man Utd back in February. Frenkie de Jong is nearing a return but could also miss out leaving Xavi with fewer options to pick from as they look to hold on to the most slender of advantages against their rivals.
Real Madrid are having to deal with Ferland Mendy’s injury by playing Eduardo Camavinga at left-back and the young French player has excelled while being moved around the field this season. Aside from that, Ancelotti has a clean bill of health and will come into the game on Wednesday with their tails up after a big win over Real Valladolid at the weekend.
Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid: 19 March 2023 (LaLiga)
Barcelona won the last time these two teams met and effectively put themselves out of reach at the top of LaLiga with those three points.
Barca’s Ronald Araújo scored the opener via an own goal, but Sergi Roberto and Franck Kessie got Barcelona back on top. After struggling to victory in the Copa del Rey first leg, it was back to business as usual for Barcelona in the last game – they outshot Real Madrid and also dominated possession while outscoring Ancelotti’s side in xG too.
To get an idea of the different styles deployed by Xavi this season against Real Madrid, we can see how they approached the first leg of this tie. They sat deep and soaked up Real Madrid pressure after taking the lead, allowing 13 shots but none on target. They had 35.0% possession in that game. It was their lowest possession percentage of the season and just the second time all year they have lost the battle for the ball since they had just 46.5% against Villarreal in LaLiga.
Both Real Madrid and Barcelona are coming off two of their most convincing wins of the season.
Real Valladolid were Madrid’s victims last weekend and it cost Pacheta his job. They won 6-0 at the Bernabéu but, again, the general vibe around the team is a strange one. Valladolid started better which led to some whistles from the home fans but they would go on to rout their LaLiga opponents.
Real Madrid’s six goals cam via a Karim Benzema hat-trick, plus goals from Rodrygo, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vázquez, while they even got the chance to give some of the players who have become professional benchwarmers this season some minutes.
Elche, who are doomed to relegation (the Opta supercomputer gives them a 99.9% chance of dropping into the second division) rolled over for Barcelona last weekend as the league leaders won 3-0.
Overall this season. Barcelona have conceded a quite ridiculous 31 goals in 41 games (0.76 per game) and kept more clean sheets across all competitions than any other top five European league side (23 – two more than Premier League club Man Utd and Serie A sides Juventus and Lazio) – first choice goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen keeping 22 of these, another high.
Since losing to Man Utd and Almeria back in February, Barcelona are unbeaten in five games, having rattled off five wins in a row, including two victories over Real Madrid. They also beat Athletic Club and Valencia during that run.
Barcelona have defeated third-tier sides Intercity and Ceuta alongside a quarter-final success over Real Sociedad to get to this stage of the competition. Real Madrid’s route to the semis saw them knock out Cacereño of the fourth tier, before beating Villarreal and Atlético Madrid.
Players to Watch
Real Madrid: Karim Benzema
Ever since Benzema won the Ballon d’Or, his season has been irregular. When he’s on the field, he has been lethal but injuries are preventing him from being his very best.
He put in his most complete performance for Los Blancos last weekend against Real Valladolid and looks to be hitting his stride at the right moment of the season, scoring three in front of the home fans.
His hat-trick at the weekend were his first goals within league games since the middle of February but he did score three across two legs against Liverpool in the Champions League. They will need him fit and firing if they are to turn this tie back in their favour.
Despite his irregular form across 2022-23, Benzema is still Real Madrid’s top scorer across all competitions this season with 22 goals – three more than team-mate Vinícius Júnior, while he has the same number of assists (five) as their influential midfielders Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
Barcelona: Robert Lewandowski
Barcelona look like they have wrapped up LaLiga. They are out of contention in Europe but could land a double if they can get over this Copa del Rey tie against Real Madrid. Lewandowski had only scored two goals in eight LaLiga games since the return of the World Cup but scored a brace at the weekend against Elche.
He missed the first leg of the Copa semi-final at the Santiago Bernabeu with a hamstring injury, which has been the story of the second half of his season – suspensions, injuries and general inconsistency in his minutes.
We still don’t know how Barcelona will set up for this game but Lewandowski will be out for blood having missed the first leg and having failed to score in a big game for his club in a number of months.
Whilst they aren’t in the Lionel Messi digits that we became accustomed to in Barcelona, Lewandowski is Barcelona’s leading scorer across all competitions this season with his 27 goals – the only Barca player to reach double figures. Their next highest scorer, Raphinha only has nine goals, while the Brazilian leads their assist charts (nine) – two more than both Lewandoswki and Ousmane Dembélé have for the Blaugrana.
Barcelona vs Real Madrid Prediction
Carlo Ancelotti was happy with the first leg of this tie. If we play like that again, we will go through, he said.
They have to go after FC Barcelona now that they trail 1-0 in the tie but we don’t see it going Carlo or Real Madrid’s way ahead of kick-off.
Real Madrid have a 29.1% chance of winning the game according to our predictions. That means there’s a 27.9% chance of a draw, which would suit the Catalans just fine.
The winner of this tie will face the winners of the other semi-final between Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao in the final. Osasuna currently lead the tie 1-0 after the first leg.