FC Barcelona drew the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals away to Real Madrid. Despite several chances for both teams, the game at the Santiago Bernabeu ended 1-1. Who gained the upper hand in the tie?
Barca smelled blood in the water. Real Madrid were without Iker Casillas, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Fabio Coentrao, and Angel Di Maria. A draw, given that situation, doesn't seem like enough. Especially when Xavi bounced a shot off the bar and had another cleared off the line, while Cesc Fabregas and Pedro Rodriguez missed key chances.
"We deserved to win," Dani Alves reflected. A disappointing result.
But wait a moment. This was a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu. All Barca have to do is win at home to be through. Isn't that a good result?
Yes, Madrid kept Barca's away goals to just one. Los Blancos can go through with a high scoring draw at the Camp Nou, starting at just 2-2. And true, Madrid did it without several key players.
However, the replacements Madrid had in store were all very talented. Raphael Varane, playing due to Pepe and Ramos being out, had the game of his career and scored their only goal. Diego Lopez was steady between the sticks. Michael Essien had his best performance this season as well.
Forget the circumstances for a second. From a results point of view, this is advantage Barca.
In the Pep Guardiola / Tito Vilanova era, Barcelona have never been eliminated in a two-legged series having drawn the away leg. In 11 opportunities, Barcelona managed to win the home leg 9 times. In the other two occasions, the Blaugrana drew the home leg as well but went through on away goals.
This season, Barca have yet to lose at home, with their three defeats all coming away. At home, the only two blemishes are both draws, one against Madrid and one against Benfica.
Of course, Real have their chances to snatch the victory, especially given Barca's inability to keep clean sheets. Make no mistake about it though, it is the away team that are at a handicap. By nullifying Real's home field advantage, Barca have the upper hand in the tie.
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