The most famous relationship in club soccer hits another chapter as Barcelona face a late wait on Lionel Messi ahead of Real Madrid Clásico clash
When Real Betis’ ball was drawn last Friday, fans both of their team and Valencia CF finally let out a sigh of relief after minutes of holding their collective breath. Both sides will face each other next Thursday in a battle of two opposite styles, with a precious ticket to the Copa del Rey final on the line.
The draw, however, left the other side of the bracket with only two teams left: Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Who would go toe-to-toe in the semifinal? You know, AGAIN.
Fans and casual viewers have expected every single game between these two to be so be-all, end-all that eventually some sort of ‘Clásico burnout’ happened a few years ago, possibly after the peak Mourinho era when these fixtures used to be saucy as hell before, during and after the actual game itself. Guardiola left, Mourinho left, and ultimately the heightened tensions decreased.
Nowadays… Yeah, the games are fun and important, but only a bit more than regular matches in La Liga. That ‘magic’ and anticipation has finally gone away, in the vein of a foodie eating a rib-eye steak every single night.
Regardless of Clásico exhaustion, the media manages to find different angles every time for both clubs in a slightly different way. It always depends on the narrative, and this season it has been all about Leo Messi, his superhuman form and the lack of a Cristiano or similar players to act as a counter-weight. Leo is currently in godlike form, both scoring, assisting and being pretty much all over the place.
That’s why his slight gesture when touching his thigh during Saturday’s game versus Valencia had absolutely every Barça fan spinning straight into panic mode.
Both Valverde and the club have been extremely positive about it. On Monday, Messi hit the gym while his team mates trained regularly but the player was back out on the training grounds a day later. The coach will have a chat about the issue with the player only hours before the match on Wednesday: if Messi believes he’s fit to play, he will start against Real.
?⚽ Getting ready for #ElClásico #CopaBarça
?? #ForçaBarça pic.twitter.com/wvmAQRscSe
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 5, 2019
Barça’s genius player aside, it’s actually amazing that FC Barcelona are the ones to have worries before such a game, as Real Madrid’s season has been arguably much worse than that of their counterparts.
Sitting comfortably at the top of La Liga and eight points ahead of their arch-rivals, both teams are actually still in the race to conquer the mighty ‘Triplete’ this season. Knocking the opposition out in the semi-finals would be a tremendous coup and boost the winner’s confidence immensely.
However, something has ‘clicked’ lately for Los Blancos and they are playing much, much better than before Christmas. Solari has admitted the fact a few times already: Real Madrid have hit their stride in the most convenient moment of the season.
?? No look! @SergioRamos pic.twitter.com/x2hmarmPfL
— Real Madrid C.F. ???? (@realmadriden) February 5, 2019
Against Alavés, Karim Benzemà’s spectacular form shone once again in an easy 3-0 win which also allowed Mariano to score and remember how good such a feat feels. With Lucas Vázquez seemingly as Solari’s trump card to try and stop Jordi Alba on the wing, there’s only one single free spot in Real’s attack.
Gareth Bale (when he’s fit, obviously) would be the safe pick by any coach, but Vinicius Jr. and his impressive performances in the last two months might just nab the Welshman’s place as a starter right under his nose. Just one of many storylines keeping everyone busy ahead of yet another ‘unique’ Clasico.