In search of a Clasico victory to justify coach Xavi Hernandez’s risk at a pivotal juncture of the season, a wounded Barcelona takes on Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-final first match on Thursday.
In search of a Clasico victory to justify coach Xavi Hernandez’s risk at a pivotal point in the season, a hurt Barcelona faces Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-final first match on Thursday. Despite the absence of injured pair Pedri and Ousmane Dembele, Xavi rested other crucial players in the 1-0 loss to Almeria on Sunday in order to focus on the Clasico cup match and forgo the opportunity to extend their league advantage to 10 points over Madrid. Leading scorer Robert Lewandowski has a hamstring strain and will skip the Clasico, but Ansu Fati is expected to play. This adds to Barca’s unease before the match.
After being eliminated from the Europa League by Manchester United at Old Trafford, Barcelona suffered their second straight loss at Almeria, putting on what Xavi called their “worst display of the season.”
With their seven-point La Liga lead strong but not insurmountable, a third loss at the Santiago Bernabeu could send the squad into a tailspin.
A day after Osasuna hosted Athletic Bilbao at El Sadar in the other Copa del Rey semi-final first match, the Catalans travelled to the Santiago Bernabeu.
After El Bilal Toure’s goal handed them just their second Liga defeat of the year, Xavi admonished his team, “We have to alter our mindset if we want to win the league and the cup.”
“We don’t have an explanation; we didn’t play with intensity or a drive to win.