Barcelona's Alejandro Balde, left, and Real Madrid's Nacho fight for the ball during the final of the Spanish Super Cup between Barcelona and Real Madrid in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Real Madrid and Barcelona Face Off in First Leg of Copa Del Rey Semifinal

Soccer fans know what to expect when they hear “El Clasico”.  Blood, sweat and tears between two galactic Superclubs Real Madrid and Barcelona.

They face off on Thursday at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of the Copa Del Rey semifinals; the first of three games between the two clubs in March and April.

Last Meeting

La Blaugrana was out for revenge after losing to Madrid 3-1 in La Liga.

The two Spanish giants last met on Jan. 15 in the final of the Spanish Super Cup where Barcelona defeated Los Blancos 3-1, lifting its first trophy under Barca legend Xavi.

Barcelona took advantage of three Madrid errors, with Gavi, Robert Lewandowski and Pedri capitalizing on the mistakes. Karim Benzema registered the only goal for Madrid in an embarrassing performance that saw them be outclassed by a superior Barca side.

Barcelona Form

The Catalan club suffered three huge blows ahead of its date with Real Madrid. Ousmane Dembele, Lewandowski and Pedri will all miss El Clasico with injuries.

This proved to be fatal in its last two matches as Xavi’s side was knocked out of the Europa League by Manchester United 2-1 (4-3 aggregate). They also lost for the first time in club history to Almeria in its “worst performance of the campaign,” according to Xavi.

Overall, Barca has been defensively solid, conceding only eight goals domestically, with Uruguayan center-back Ronald Araujo being in the form of his life. Xavi will look to keep a stable scoreline for the second leg in April at the Spotify Camp Nou.

Nonetheless, that is easier said than done with a recent decline in physical and mental form and the loss of three key players.

Real Madrid Form

Los Blancos enter El Clásico with a 1-1 draw against Atletico.

Madrid has been rather mediocre in the league, dropping eight points since returning from the World Cup. However, head coach Carlo Ancelotti will look to bring its Champions League momentum to take advantage of Barca’s woes.

Vinicius Jr. and Benzema showed what they are capable of after they both had a brace in its 5-2 away victory against Liverpool. And without the threat of an all-out attack, Madrid is sure to throw more punches at the brick wall that is Barcelona’s defense.

Benzema, Luka Modric and Thibaut Courtois were all named in the FIFPro XI this week, and the midfield is solidified with extraordinary depth (Camavinga, Federico Valverde, Modric, Toni Kroos, Aurelien Tchouameni, Dani Ceballos). Ancelotti will be sure to exploit his squad’s depth, with last season’s 4-0 defeat against Barca in the back of his mind.

They will be without David Alaba and Ferland Mendy, who are both out with injuries. This means Nacho Fernandez will snub a starting position at left-back. Brazilian winger Rodrygo Goes is also in doubt, but hopeful.

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