There are few games, if any, that can match El Clasico for drama and excitement. It’s a truly global game, with football fans from across the world tuning in.
With three to come over the next few weeks, Barcelona and Real Madrid will be glad to see the backs of each other, though it’s doubtful this series of games will be anything like the wars of attrition from back in 2011.
Both sides have differing reasons for winning this game, which will be available to live stream through Bet365 and William Hill from 8pm on Wednesday.
The Catalans have the chance to create another slice of history if they should emerge victorious from this two-legged affair and the final at Real Betis’ Estadio Benito Villamarin.
Another triumph would mean they’ve won the Copa del Rey for five successive seasons – something that’s never been done before and is somewhat unlikely to be repeated any time soon.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, need something to show for their efforts post-Zidane and Ronaldo.
It was always going to be a transitional type of season, but Los Blancos must have enough about them to not worry about such inconveniences.
The sacking of Julen Lopetegui clearly hasn’t helped, but Santiago Solari is just getting to grips with his squad now and moulding them in the style he prefers.
Unlikely to win La Liga unless the Blaugrana have an almighty collapse, it’s debatable that they’re strong enough to win the Champions League for a fourth successive year too.
That means a cup win is their only realistic option.
Given the way that both teams are playing at the moment, goals are virtually assured, and the fixture normally promises them too.
Indeed, there has never been a goalless draw between the sides in the Copa del Rey.
In fact, astonishingly, there’s also never been one when they’ve met in the Champions League, Spanish Super Cup or Copa de la Liga (created in 1982 and disbanded four years later).
The last game in La Liga when both sides failed to find the net in this fixture came way back on 23 November 2002.
Real hold a slight advantage in the tie as they have the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, and they’ll be hoping to repeat their last two semi-final showings against Barca in this competition, as they went through both times.
With all of Real’s focus on Lionel Messi, that plays into the hosts hands, as it means Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho can have more of an influence on proceedings.
Barca will certainly feel they’ve got the attacking tools to get the job done, but they underestimate Karim Benzema at their peril.
The Frenchman has six goals from his last four appearances, which includes two each on the last two occasions he played in Catalonia against Espanyol and Girona.
He’ll enjoy the responsibility of being the difference maker in this one and will be at it from the first whistle as Barca settle.
BetVictor’s 6/1 for him to score the first of the night is astonishing value, quite frankly.
With Karim Benzema playing himself into form, Gareth Bale seemingly over any injury concerns and Vinicius Junior showing no signs of any fear whatsoever, Real Madrid once again have a front line to be feared.
Bale’s pace in particular will trouble Barca’s back-line, and whilst the Catalans ran out convincing winners in the last Clasico in October, there were signs well before the game went away from Los Blancos that they had enough about them to get back into the match.
And they weren’t playing anywhere near as well as they are at present.
Any goal for them will be welcomed as it will give them something to hang onto for the return in the Spanish capital.
Home advantage isn’t always crucial in this fixture – just look at how many games Barcelona have won at the Bernabeu in recent years – but a packed Camp Nou will be the 12th man that the Catalans need to get over the line here.
A slender win it might be, but a win nonetheless.
This match really sets the tone for the other two, with the third of the three (in La Liga) coming just three days after the cup return.
Both of the latter two are at the Bernabeu and it will be the first time in Barcelona’s history that they’ll have played two consecutive games there.
They’ll want, and perhaps expect, to win all three, but the law of averages suggests that such a feat might be beyond them.
Therefore, getting a foot hold in this opening encounter is imperative.
The first half is likely to be an intense affair played at a tremendous pace, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both sides open their account before the referee, Mateu Lahoz, blows for half time.
Barca’s possession stats this season have been as remarkable as always, and as Real begin to tire, the hosts should strike again during the second 45.
Bet365 are offering 15/4 for a Half Time/Full Time bet of Draw/Barcelona, which will provide a decent return.
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