There may be a lack of European football this midweek, with the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, and Europa Conference League enjoying a brief rest period, but there’s still plenty going on. It’s a midweek cup special from across the continent, with games played in England, Spain, and France. The main attraction comes from Spain and the Copa del Rey, where two giants of the game clash on Thursday from 20:00 GMT. Real Madrid face off against old rivals Barcelona in the latest renewal of the globally popular El Classico. But which team will end on top, securing the win and bragging rights in Spanish football?
When Spain’s two biggest clubs go head-to-head, you can be sure of a fiery encounter. There are no La Liga points on the line here, and that may be a source of disappointment for Blancos, who are playing catch-up in La Liga with time running out to put pressure on Barcelona. But Thursday does offer a shot at cup glory and improving these rivals’ already impressive record at this level. Real Madrid will enjoy the crowd’s backing and most pundits who expect them to win. But it would be foolish to ignore the improvement made by Barcelona this season already.
The head-to-head stats make for interesting reading, as you might expect from such a huge derby match. This will be the third time the rivals have met this season, with the two previous games producing 3-1 scores. Madrid won 3-1 in La Liga in October before Barca got their revenge with a 3-1 win of their own in the Spanish Super Cup in January. The game hangs in the balance, perfect for our team of writers who love studying the stats and making predictions. Read on for our in-depth preview, and big match picks.
Madrid unbeaten in three
Real Madrid enters this contest on the back of what has been an uninspiring run of form. The La Liga champions have failed to win two of their previous four outings, with that run contributing to Barcelona being on top of the table. Madrid’s form this term consists of 16 wins, four draws, and three defeats, with 47 goals scored and 18 conceded. Their tally of 52 points means they are seven off the pace set by Barca, who were beaten at the weekend, leaving the door open for Blancos to get back into the running.
Real Madrid warmed up for this match with a disappointing draw in the Madrid derby on Saturday. Real enjoyed the home advantage over Atletico and ended with a man advantage after the visitors had Correa sent off on 64 minutes. Despite playing with ten men, it was Atletico Madrid that took the lead thanks to an opening goal from Gimenez with 78 minutes on the clock. Rodriguez snatched a late leveler for Real Madrid, scoring on 85 minutes to earn a share of the spoils.
Despite that late fightback, Real Madrid fans will know their side missed a huge opportunity to grab a derby win and close the gap on Barcelona. Failure to take three points on Saturday means the champions remain off the pace and with time running out. If they aren’t capable of closing the gap on Barcelona in La Liga, they’ll know they must find success in domestic cup competitions and the Champions League. Winning this game will provide a boost to team morale and help build momentum, but the Madrid coaching staff knows the damage a defeat will do to their squad.
Barca suffer a rare defeat
Barcelona has been one of the most impressive teams in Europe this season, fighting back from the difficulties of last term to get back on track. They were unable to lay a glove on Real Madrid, who eased to the title last term, but this year has been different, with Barcelona back approaching their best form. The Spaniards look like their old selves and are playing the best football we’ve seen since Lionel Messi left for PSG. Confidence is sky-high in the squad, but there’s still plenty of work to be done.
Barca is top of the La Liga table, with their stats for the season showing 19 wins, two draws, and a pair of defeats, scoring 45 goals and conceding just eight. The 59 points claimed have them streets ahead of the chasing pack in La Liga, and with the season already 23 games old, they are in a strong position. Barcelona might be going well in La Liga, but they have already been eliminated from both the Champions League and Europa League, meaning domestic success is their remaining goal.
Despite going well of late, leading La Liga and pushing Man Utd all the way in the Europa League, the visiting team was beaten at the weekend. They allowed Real Madrid to close the gap by a single point after losing away to Almeria in a match they were the red-hot favorites to win. It was a rare off day for the club, and fans will be eager to see the players dust themselves off and make a timely return to winning ways. Was that loss a blip in their season or a sign Barca is beginning to unravel under pressure? We’ll find out soon.
Real Madrid v Barcelona prediction
Real Madrid will want to lay down a marker by beating their main domestic rivals in the hope that it’ll heap pressure on Barca and cause them to drop more points in La Liga. If Blancos play anywhere near the level we seen from them in the Champions League, they should have enough skill and work rate to win this match.
Copa del Rey odds
The pre-match betting odds available at 22bet has Real Madrid priced at 1.92 to win this game, or you can back Barcelona at 3.82 and the draw 3.7.
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