The Hard Tackle takes a look at the potential lineups for Barcelona and Real Madrid ahead of the second El Clasico of the season, in the Copa del Rey.
Barcelona and Real Madrid will be aiming to take a big step towards reaching the Copa del Rey finals, when they lock horns in the semi-final first leg at Camp Nou on Wednesday night.
The hosts reached the penultimate stage of Spain’s premier cup competition by coming from two goals down to beat Sevilla 6-3 on aggregate in the quarter-finals. But, Ernesto Valverde’s men were rather sub-par in their 2-2 draw against Valencia this past weekend, and they will be hoping to fare better when they meet their arch rivals.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, were largely comfortable in their 7-3 aggregate win over Girona in the Last Eight stage of the Copa del Rey. Los Blancos then continued their fine form with a 3-0 win over Alaves at home last weekend, and will be hoping to avenge the heavy defeat in the first El Clasico of the season a few months back.
The Hard Tackle now takes a look at the potential lineup for both sides, ahead of the much anticipated clash between the two biggest clubs in Spain.
Ernesto Valverde has a few notable absentees from his squad, starting with regular cup goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, who is out with a calf injury. In the Dutchman’s stead, Barcelona B custodian Inaki Pena continues to make the matchday squad, but will have to suffice with a place on the bench once again.
So, Marc-Andre ter Stegen is poised to man the Barcelona goal in the Copa del Rey for the first time in two years. As far as defence is concerned, Valverde’s team selection against Valencia provided a clue as to who will line up in the back four.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 5, 2019
Clement Lenglet was rested this past weekend, meaning he becomes an automatic selection to start at the heart of the Barcelona defence against Real Madrid. Lenglet’s partner should be Gerard Pique, while Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba are expected to be the full-backs, after they both featured in just one half last Saturday.
In midfield, Sergio Busquets, like Lenglet did not play against Valencia due to his one-match ban, and should start as the Anchor Man. Arthur was only a second half substitute and is likely to start as well, while Ivan Rakitic is a certain starter whenever fit and available.
Up ahead in attack, the big concern heading into the El Clasico against Real Madrid was the availability of Lionel Messi. And, during his pre-match press conference (h/t MARCA) Valverde iterated that he will take a late call on the Barcelona captain’s involvement.
“I haven’t seen yet, there’s one training session left [before El Clasico] and we’ll see how he is before deciding. I am not in favour of taking risks if there are lots of games ahead as there is risk of injury; in a match like tomorrow you can’t play with a broken hand, for instance. If he’s fit, he’ll be on the list; if he’s not, he won’t.”
Messi has been included in the matchday squad by Valverde, which suggests he should start. In addition to the Argentine, Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez, with the former’s place being a certainty largely due to the absence of Ousmane Dembele.
Santiago Solari is in a much better position as far as injuries are concerned. Jesus Vallejo is the only player sidelined, although the young Spaniard is inching closer to his return from injury. And, the Real Madrid boss confirmed the luxury he has during his pre-match press conference.
“Vallejo is almost there, we’re very happy because we’re almost all there. When they’re all available, it’s more difficult to pick the match-day squad and that’s the hardest part for a coach. The important thing is that everyone puts their talents, ability and effort at the service of the team.”
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) February 6, 2019
Much like his Barcelona counterpart though, the Real Madrid boss has a few certain starters based on his team selection against Alaves. But, the goalkeeping spot presents a cause for debate. Keylor Navas has been preferred between the sticks so far in Copa del Rey, but Thibaut Courtois is quite easily the Real Madrid no. 1.
Considering the magnitude of the tie, Courtois does come into contention to start, but Navas should get the nod on Wednesday. In the Real Madrid back four, Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane are automatic selections owing to their absence due to suspension last weekend, while club captain Sergio Ramos is a certain starter when fit.
The left-back slot, much like the position in goal, is up for grabs, considering Marcelo’s recent fall in stature. Sergio Reguilon played the entire 90 minutes against Alaves, while Marcelo has been preferred in cup ties lately, meaning the Brazilian full-back should start.
Toni Kroos, who was rested on Sunday, should start in midfield, with Luka Modric an automatic selection as well. The holding midfield spot is likely to be taken by Marcos Llorente, as there is a no reason why Solari should keep overplaying Casemiro, when the Spaniard himself is in fine form.
Up ahead in attack, the Real Madrid boss has all of the riches available to him, although Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior are certain starters owing to their superb run of form. The final spot in the side is likely to be taken by Lucas Vazquez, who has become a first-choice player for Solari in recent weeks.