The quest for a domestic double continues for Barcelona as the La Liga title favorites fight for a spot in the 2023 Copa del Rey Final when they welcome Real Madrid to the Spotify Camp Nou for the last El Clásico of the season in the second leg of their semi-final tie.
Barça won the first leg 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabéu last month, and only need to avoid defeat against their main rivals at home to secure a spot in the title game. The Blaugrana have won the last three Clásicos in all competitions, including a thrilling 2-1 comeback victory that virtually won them La Liga just over two weeks ago.
Madrid know that winning this one gives them their only realistic shot at a domestic trophy this season, and they’re no doubt hungry for some payback against the Catalans. Here’s how we think Barça will line up for battle on Wednesday night.
Xavi Hernández has an important piece back for this one but is still missing crucial players, including Andreas Christensen at the back as the Dane continues to recover from a calf injury suffered in international duty.
But Ronald Araujo is fully healthy and looked good and strong against Elche at the weekend, and the Uruguayan will start at right-back for one last high-profile matchup against Vinicius Junior this season. Jules Kounde will move to the middle, and Alejandro Balde is expected to return at left-back.
The only doubt is Kounde’s partner, with Eric García back in the fold after a good performance at the weekend in midfield and Marcos Alonso in contention thanks in large part to his excellent performance in the first leg at the Bernabéu that helped keep the clean sheet. Alonso most likely gets the nod for this one too, as his height could prove to be a factor if Madrid resort to desperate crossing tactics late in the game if they’re close to being knocked out.
Sergio Busquets was surprisingly left out of the lineup against Elche as Xavi clearly prioritized having his captain at 100% for this one, and there’s no doubt Busi will be back to provide his usual leadership and quiet dominance at the center of the park.
Franck Kessie won the last Clásico and probably starts this one, since Frenkie De Jong isn’t expected back from injury in time for Wednesday. Sergi Roberto will complete the midfield trio, with Gavi once again moving to the left wing in the four-midfielder system that has worked well in the last three Clásicos.
Despite missing Christensen, De Jong, Pedri and Ousmane Dembélé for this one, Xavi has some good news as Raphinha is back from the suspension that kept him out of the trip to Elche and will no doubt start on the right wing to try and continue the good form he was in before the international break.
Robert Lewandowski will lead the line after his two-goal, one-assist performance at the weekend which was a much-needed confidence boost for the Pole. Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati also scored on Saturday, and while both will be on the bench for this one they can also feel more confident in their ability to affect the game as substitutes if/when they’re called upon.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Araujo, Kounde, Alonso, Balde; Kessie, Busquets, Roberto; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Gavi (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Real Madrid? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!