The time is almost upon us. Kick-off is just a couple of short hours away, and the teamsheets will be released in just a short matter of time. The identity of the 22 players that will contest this El Clasico, the 2014 Copa del Rey final will be revealed, although there is a suspicion that we may already know the two starting XIs that Gerardo Martino and Carlo Ancelotti will send onto the field at the Mestalla.
In fact, there’s a good chance that you will have seen the starting line-ups already; the Spanish media and indeed the world’s media in general have all been busy, predicting just who they believe will start for FC Barcelona and Real Madrid tonight. The results? Mixed.
Madrid-based media aren’t usually the best at predicting who will start for Barcelona, but they are right on occasion, and given the current situation surrounding the Blaugrana, their word is probably as reliable as that of Mundo Deportivo, or Sport, two of the Catalan dailies. Everyone has an agenda with this club; so let’s see what Marca are thinking:
Real Madrid (4-2-3-1/4-3-3): Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao; Alonso, Modric; Bale, Isco, di Maria; Benzema
According their sources at the club, this is the line-up that Carlo Ancelotti was experimenting with yesterday during training. Really, it’s no surprise that a) Ancelotti would use this in training or b) Marca would predict this. It’s safe. It’s normal. It’s predictable. Does that mean Ancelotti is going to use this line-up, and keep his attacking 4-3-3 formation? If he used it in training, it means he’s either preparing to do just that, or fool us all and go for something completely different tonight.
So Marca aren’t really helping us out here.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Pinto; Alves, Mascherano, Bartra, Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Neymar
Well, this would be a surprise – and that’s putting it lightly. Marc Bartra is a doubt for this match, so he might start, but he might not. And is the traditional 4-3-3 with two wingers really an option? The idea of starting Pedro is both intriguing and simple. He has an incredible record, both against Real Madrid and in finals in general. I would start him ahead of Alexis Sánchez, but I simply cannot see us starting with three forwards tonight.
Still, Marca are probably more "in the know" than I am.
Catalan Media: Barcelona
TV3 (4-3-3): Pinto; Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Fàbregas; Neymar, Messi, Iniesta
RAC1 (4-3-3): Pinto; Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Alexis, Messi, Neymar
Now things get interesting. The usually dependable RAC1 have arguably the "least likely" line-up, but are typically spot on. TV3 have gone for a typical Martino selection, basing their prediction on his previous line-ups in the Clasico. That no two media outlets are alike for tonight’s game with their Barça predictions is somewhat odd, especially given the uniformity of the Real Madrid predictions. However, it may single that we have an upperhand.
Perhaps not the upperhand, but an upperhand nonetheless. How can Ancelotti really prepare his team if he doesn’t know who he will be facing? And how does he expect to catch us off-guard if his selection is so obvious and well-known prior to the game?
As always, the tactical battle between the two sides will be intriguing, and the winner may well go on to lift the trophy at full-time. For more coverage of the Clasico, be sure to participate in our Live Game Thread, which will go online soon after line-ups are officially announced and come back after the final whistle for a full match recap, and analysis of the major talking points from the game.
For now, Visca el Barça y Visca Catalunya!
- 2014 Copa del Rey Final: Real Madrid: Route to the Final
- Copa del Rey Clasico: Barcelona-Real Madrid Key Matchups
- 2014 Copa del Rey Final: FC Barcelona: Route to the Final
- FC Barcelona News: 16 April 2014; 24 Players Travel to Face Real Madrid in Copa del Rey Final, Center Back Pairing Still Unkown
- Copa del Rey: El Clasico: FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid: Predict the Score