There was a 50 percent chance of it happening, and once Valencia and Real Betis had been drawn out of the Copa del Rey hat, it meant that, yes, we were going to see a two-legged El Clasico semi-final.
Moreover, the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu precedes a league match between the two teams at the same venue just 72 hours later.
It’s the first time in Barcelona’s history that they will have played two consecutive games at the Bernabeu, and given their recent record there, the Blaugrana will be entirely confident of continuing their run of victories.Real Madrid, meanwhile, will believe that Barca have little to no chance of remaining unbeaten against them in that mini-series of matches.
Barcelona have two incentives to win the tie – and both will be motivational for the dressing room.
Knocking their fiercest rivals out of the cup and then beating them in the league would effectively end their season. It would also give Barca the chance to win a historic fifth Spanish cup in a row.
Whilst it’s true that Real will probably still be in the Champions League, they don’t look strong enough to win it, so at this stage the Copa del Rey represents their best chance of silverware.
At the time of writing Los Blancos are 10 points behind leaders Barca, and if they go toe to toe until March 2 and the Blaugrana then win again, a 13-point gap at that stage of the season is insurmountable.
What’s imperative is that Ernesto Valverde plays his strongest XI in the home leg at the Camp Nou this coming Wednesday.
The Basque coach simply cannot risk leaving players out like he did against Levante and Sevilla, and then hope for a turnaround in the return leg.
Lightning won’t strike three times.
Real are on an upturn form wise, and so may present stiffer opposition than that which Barca faced in Julen Lopetegui’s final game, the 5-1 Clasico from earlier in the season.
The hosts should still have too much for their opponents from the Spanish capital, but the question is whether Real can score that all-important away goal or two, to give them something to cling onto for the second leg.
If the win against Sevilla was a barometer, the Catalans really want to have the chance to make some more history in the Benito Villamarin, and woe betide Los Blancos if the Blaugrana are in the mood.
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