After pulling off an astonishing comeback and beating Sevilla 4-2 on Saturday, Barcelona will face a stern test this week with back-to-back matches against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the Copa del Rey and La Liga. Seeing as the first leg of the Copa del Rey resulted in a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou, a spot in the final is very much still up for grabs to whichever side has what it takes to perform on the night.
Real Madrid have just come off of a narrow 2-1 win over Levante; a win in which they needed two penalties to grab the three points. This is the latest in a series of inconsistent results for the Galacticos, as their current form reads three wins, one draw and one loss.
In early February, Real Madrid performed surprisingly well at the Wanda Metropolitano, where they brushed aside stern rivals Atletico with a 3-1 victory. While this victory saw Real dominate proceedings with 64% possession and 11 shots with four on target, this has not been the case in each of their subsequent matches.
Los Blancos struggled to find a breakthrough in their Champions League clash with Ajax, and it finally took a Karim Benzema strike in the 60th minute to break the deadlock. While Real were able to pull ahead once again after Ajax’s equaliser, their win did not come easily, and they were only able to maintain 49% possession and take 13 shots, while Ajax took 19.
Things went from bad to worse in their clash with Girona, as the underdogs triumphed 2-1 in the Galacticos’ backyard, despite only keeping 43% ball possession. Despite taking 19 shots themselves, Real Madrid gave away 14 shots to their opponents on the day, who are a weaker side that should not be gifted so many chances by top opposition.
The fact that Portu was effectively able to tap the winner in from close range after a Thibaut Courtois parry shows a failure on Los Blancos’ part to close down their opposition; a weakness that the Barca attack will do well to expose.
While their clash with Levante ended in a win, it was a less than convincing performance on the pitch by Real Madrid, who failed to penetrate the Levante defence except from the penalty spot.
In terms of star players, Sergio Ramos had much impact on proceedings prior to his sending off against Girona two weeks ago. He came away with a goal against local rivals Atletico, and without him at the back, the Galacticos would surely have conceded more goals given their recent defensive lapses. His importance is emphasised by the fact that Real have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last five matches in all competitions, and a stellar performance from him will be necessary to keep Barca at bay.
Gareth Bale has performed better in recent weeks, even netting goals against Levante and Atletico Madrid, while Karim Benzema remains Real’s main target man and recently scored against Levante and Ajax and previously netted against stellar opposition such as Alaves and Espanyol. Also one to watch is Marco Asensio, the scorer of Real’s winner against Ajax after a stellar attacking option from the bench. While Luka Modric, Tony Kroos and Isco have been far from their best as of late, Barca certainly cannot afford to underestimate them given their obvious skillsets.
The current Real Madrid lineup’s performances have been far from their best, and it has become apparent that a solid performance from the Galacticos is not guaranteed at present. This does not mean that Barca can let their guard down, however, as their goalless draw against Lyon proved that playing attractive football does not necessarily guarantee the deserved result. Barca will need to remain vigilant throughout this match, as while they seem to be the stronger side at present, anything can happen in El Clasico.