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If you like a Clásico (and what football fan doesn’t?), then you’re in luck. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are going to be playing each no fewer than three times in the next month. As well as the Liga meeting at Spotify Camp Nou, the famous rivals are also meeting in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey.
Unlike the other rounds of the Spanish Cup, the semis are played home and away, and the first of the two games is on Thursday at 9pm local time. If you want to know what time that there is where you are and who is showing the game, just check our guide here.
Barça are going into the game on the back of two disappointments. Only the second defeat of the league season, 1-0 away to Almeria, leaves the side ‘only’ seven points clear at the top of the table when it could have been ten after the side in second place, Real Madrid themselves, had been held to a 1-1 draw in the local derby with Atlético Madrid the day before.
Just three days earlier, Barça had crashed out of the Europa League following a 2-1 loss at Manchester United. Real Madrid, meanwhile, are still very much alive on the continent after coming back from 2-0 down to trounce Liverpool 5-2 in the last sixteen first leg of the Champions League at Liverpool.
We meet again
This is already the fourth ‘Clásico’ of 2022/23 and there are still two more to come! The sides met in a pre-season friendly in Las Vegas, which Barça won 1-0 thanks to a solitary goal from Raphinha.
The Liga clash in October was the only other time that Barça have been beaten in that competition so far this season. Madrid won 3-1 at Santiago Bernabéu. Benzema and Valverde gave the all-whites a half-time lead. A Ferran Torres goal restored some blaugrana hope, but Rodrygo settled things from the penalty spot in injury time.
And then there was a wonderful Spanish Super Cup Final in Saudi Arabia. Gavi and Lewandowski had already earned Barça a well-deserved lead at the interval, and Barça continued to dominate in the second half, with Pedri scoring a third and Benzema’s late goal bringing little consolation to a well-beaten Madrid.
Both sides came into the competition late due to the teams playing in the Super Cup getting a bye into the round of 32. It was there that Barça were put to a surprisingly difficult test by the relatively unknown Intercity of Alicante, Ansu Fati’s extra time goal eventually settling it after an extraordinary game had ended 3-3.
Ceuta were then comfortably despatched 5-0, and in the quarter finals a Dembélé goal saw off ten-man Real Sociedad.
Real Madrid also made heavy work of beating a ‘minnow’ in the round of 32, Rodrygo netting the only goal of a 1-0 win at Cacereño. They looked to be going out after going 2-0 down to Villarreal in the next round, but fought back to win 3-2. They also came from behind in the quarter finals, where they’d been drawn against local rivals Atlético. They needed a late Rodrygo goal to tie the game, and eventually won 3-1 in extra time.
Ousmane Dembélé and Pedri remain out, while top scorer Robert Lewandowski also misses this game with a hamstring problem. That’s three of the most important players in the team missing, so it comes as especially welcome news that Ansu Fati, who’s been nursing a bad knee, has been declared fit for inclusion.
As for Real Madrid, neither of the two injured defenders, Ferland Mendy and David Alaba, have been able to mend in time for this one, but their in-form Brazilian forward Rodrygo was something of a surprise inclusion in the squad. He hurt his hip against Liverpool, but it seems he’s back in action earlier than perhaps expected.
"We were well beaten the last time we played there, but they were well beaten in the Super Cup. But this competition is different, and it will all be decided at Camp Nou. We played extraordinary football against them last time, but this is the Real Madrid that just thrashed Liverpool at home”
“Real Madrid are favourites because they won the Champions League and LaLiga.”
“Ansu Fati has a bruised knee but he was able to train and is feeling happy and motivated. Estanis is in the squad to cover for Lewandowski, and he’s in great form right now. Alarcón is another option we have. They’re players for the future.”
"We work on mental issues every day. We need to turn the page and this a great chance to react.”
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