Game Previews

El Clásico – an unexpected Copa sight (1-1)

Luis Suárez and Sergio Ramos arguing, during El Clásico / REUTERS

A Clásico galore is right around the corner, as two Clásico’s are to be played at the Santiago Bernabéu, while one – which ended in a 1-1 draw was played at the Camp Nou last night.

Last night was the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final for Barcelona and Real Madrid, the second leg is on February 27th, and only four days later – on Saturday March 2nd – is the second league game of the season between the two teams.

You have to go back to the 2013/14-season, when the two teams last faced in the Copa del Rey – that was in a final, which truthfully was most memorable for Gareth Bale’s goal, where he outran Marc Bartra, and slot it home behind a helpless Manuel Pinto to win the Cup in the dying minutes.

Last time the two teams met in the Copa before a final was in the 2012/13-season in the semi-finals, where Real Madrid advanced, and the two teams had met the previous season in the 2011/12-season, where Barcelona knocked Madrid out in the quarter-final.

So, even though the teams meet twice a season in the league, Copa games between the two are a rare sight, mainly due to the fact that Madrid haven’t prioritized the Copa as much as they have the Champions League or La Liga, whereas Barça’s main focus has been on the league and the cup.

Ousmane Dembélé had just returned from injury when he got a flu which meant that Ernesto Valverde for precaution kept the Frenchman off the pitch, whereas Messi made the squad.

This was Barça’s squad for yesterday’s game:
Marc-André ter Stegen
Nelson Semedo
Gerard Piqué
Ivan Rakitic
Sergio Busquets
Philippe Coutinho
Arthur Melo
Luis Suárez
Lionel Messi
Clément Lenglet
Jeison Murillo
Jordi Alba
Kevin-Prince Boateng
Sergi Roberto
Arturo Vidal
Thomas Vermaelen
Iñaki Peña

This games will, without a doubt, be interesting, as Malcom despite what we all thought, actually was in the starting lineup alongside Coutinho and Luis Suárez tonight.

This was Barça’s starting lineup: ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Arthur; Malcom, Suárez, Coutinho.

And this was Real Madrid’s starting lineup: Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Marcos Llorente, Kroos, Modric; Lucas Vázquez, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.

During the game, Messi, Vidal and Aleñá were introduced for Barcelona, whereas Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and the Brazilian Casemiro were the used substitutes for Madrid.

The game, which was a tight affair, although Barcelona controlled the game heavily in the second half, with Madrid relying on quick effective counters, saw Madrid strike first in a dominant first half, as Lucas Vázquez broke the deadlock early on, in the sixth minute of play.

Shortly before Messi came on, Malcom scored the equalizer in great fashion, and although it’s all square on the scoreboard, Madrid do have the away goal advantage going into the second leg at the Bernabéu. Should Messi and Ousmane Dembélé be available then, Barça could however very well have the upper hand on the pitch.

Honorable mentions from the game: Arthur Melo was composed at all times, controlled the tempo, and was really good at picking out the right passes and dribbling at the right times. He was extremely good in the second half, despite a slow start to the first, and definitely helped Barcelona keep Madrid in check and control the game; it truly was a mesmeric performance from the young Brazilian.

Malcom had a great game, despite missing a sitter to make it 1-1 early on. He kept his head up and looked very lively – and really was the biggest attacking threat for Barcelona before Messi came on, and also scored the equalizer that Barça needed.

Partnering with him on the right side was Nelson Semedo, who also had a great game. He kept Vinicius in check despite the goal early on, and looked very lively and confident going forward as well. He made some really good dribbles, and made the right passes and tackles. It was a great performance from him, as he looks to cement his place in the starting eleven ahead of Sergi Roberto.

Gerard Piqué once again proved why he’s vital in this Barcelona side: he played really well, made some absolutely vital blocks and tackles, and looked like a true veteran on the pitch. It was an absolutely great performance from him.

Looking on to the next game, Barça’s next game is against Ernesto Valverde’s former club, Athletic Bilbao, and it’s not going to be an easy one at the San Mamés, where Dembélé is expected to feature in his first game back from injury.