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Three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Real Madrid | Copa del Rey



Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images

Franck Kessie’s late goal for Barcelona against Real Madrid, on the night of March 19th, went down in history as one of the most clutch strikes in El Clasico history.

In a matter of ten minutes, Barcelona experienced the lows of heartbreak to pure ecstasy of a twelve-point lead in La Liga, in what was a classic fixture at Spotify Camp Nou.

Less than a month later, the storyline repeats. The Catalans play host to their arch-rivals once again at the same venue. This time, however, it is a spot in the Copa del Rey final on the line.

One goal separates the two sides heading into the all-important second leg and lies in favour of Xavi’s men. With both teams coming off big wins in La Liga, expect fireworks on the field as the two heavyweights grind it out one last time this season.

Barca Universal brings you three talking points ahead of El Clasico.

1. Domestic treble in touching distance?

Barcelona entered the 2022/23 season amidst little idea of what to expect. After a trophyless season, any upgrade would have been considered a high.

In a short time, Xavi has not only brought up the team’s level on the field but also the expectations of the fans. There is now a clarity in the Blaugranas‘ approach to games, an identity of their own, and a spark of consistency that has lacked in recent years.

Barcelona’s European elimination twice in the campaign may thus be considered a let-down for a team with such talent. But, a domestic treble with La Liga, Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup will mark the campaign as a great success.

Barcelona have already stacked up their first title of the season and are on course to cruise to the league trophy. The Azulgranas‘ twelve-point lead atop the table gets more imposing with every passing matchday and it is difficult to see them botch it from here.

The only competition remaining to be settled, thus, is the Copa del Rey which will take place on Wednesday night.

Barcelona came out on top in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu last month and lead by a goal on aggregate. A win or draw at Spotify Camp Nou will guarantee them a place in the final and take them to within 90 minutes of silverware.

Xavi’s men have breathing room in La Liga, and Wednesday’s game thus presents them with one of their final must-win games of the season. Up against the European champions, it remains to be seen if the Catalans can hold their own again.

2. Key absences in all departments

Pedri and Frenkie de Jong are out for Barcelona (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images)

Barcelona have won their last three meetings against Real Madrid across all competitions. Of them, the two Clasicos in March stand out considering the injury woes the team had to overcome.

In that sense, Wednesday presents Xavi with the ultimate challenge and could be the cherry on the cake.

Barcelona’s midfield maestro, Pedri, continues to be unavailable after aggravating his injury last month and will miss his third successive Clasico. Moreover, with Frenkie de Jong ruled out too, the manager has big decisions to take.

The defensive line will have to operate without Andreas Christensen on the night after the Dane injured his calf during the international break. Marcos Alonso is best placed to take his spot alongside Jules Kounde while Ronald Araujo takes up the right-back position.

In the final third, Ousmane Dembele will once again be unavailable for selection. The Frenchman’s mild aggravation has the club on high alert and a cautious approach is being employed.

Given the list of absentees, Xavi has perhaps his biggest test of the season. His impressive run in Clasicos could either be topped off with the most emphatic one of them all midweek, but the threat of heartbreak is real.

3. Maximising the home advantage

Wednesday night will be a battle of fine advantages. There are no favourites in the tie, as has always been the case with El Clasico.

Carlo Ancelotti has a close-to-complete squad at his disposal for the big game. Moreover, his team’s spirit and belief in knockout formats and must-win games is arguably his biggest weapon.

Barcelona enter the tie with an advantage of their own. A three-Clasico winning streak and a 1-0 lead are amongst the comforts they possess, but none might be as decisive as the venue.

Having the home advantage for the second leg is a comfort that requires no description. With a full Spotify Camp Nou rallying them on from behind, the Catalans will have no dearth of passion on the night.

Xavi won his first clash against the Merengues at home last month and faces the challenge one last time this season tomorrow. Needless to say, a lot will depend on capitalising on the home advantage and building an impenetrable fortress.

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