El Clasico talking points: Messi injury could mean Real revenge

Catalan club will host bitter rivals in first of three clashes between them in coming weeks

Barcelona will host Real Madrid at Camp Nou in Catalonia on Wednesday night. Photograph: Albert Gea/Inpho

Barcelona will host Real Madrid at Camp Nou in Catalonia on Wednesday night. Photograph: Albert Gea/Inpho

 

Barcelona host El Clasico rivals Real Madrid as the pair meet at the Nou Camp in the opening leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday.

The bitter opponents will clash three times in the coming weeks as they battle for supremacy at the end of the season.

Will Lionel be fit to make it a Messi night for Madrid defence?

Lionel Messi has scored 12 goals in his last nine games. The diminutive Argentinian is in fine form but suffered a minor leg injury in Saturday’s LaLiga draw with Valencia.

While Messi trained on Tuesday evening, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde would not be drawn on whether the 31-year-old would be risked but he was included in the squad.

What is ailing Bale?

Gareth Bale returned from a calf injury at the weekend having missed Real’s eight games before the 3-0 win over Alaves.

The Wales international did not look at his best in that win and there is a suggestion in some quarters that he is struggling to fill the sizeable void left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit.

Bale will be hoping for another chance to provide the sort of heroics he did off the bench in last season’s Champions League win over Liverpool.

Familiarity breeds contests

There is not much these two La Liga giants do not know about one another.

But this is the first of three games between Barcelona and Real Madrid over the next 24 days, with the second leg of the semi-final and the league clash — both at the Bernabeu — still to come.

Wednesday’s first game will be a good barometer for both managers to judge what is needed to secure positive results in the coming month.

Squad goals

Although it is a cup semi-final, both Valverde and Real Madrid counterpart Santiago Solari may look to make some changes.

Real in particular, need to keep an eye on the league — where they sit third, eight points adrift of leaders Barcelona — and face a Madrid derby against second-placed Atletico at the weekend.

That could lead to some fringe players being given a chance to shine at the Nou Camp — with the likes of Brahim Diaz, Isco and Marcos Llorente hoping for the call.

Another five-star showing for Barcelona?

Barcelona have been the team to beat in LaLiga once again this season.

Their 5-1 thrashing of Real Madrid earlier in the campaign led to Julen Lopetegui losing his job as coach just months after taking over.

Luis Suarez bagged a hat-trick on a night to remember for Barcelona but their Clasico rivals have improved since then and will be keen to exact a modicum of revenge on Wednesday.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.