Sergio Ramos and other Real Madrid players. (Photo : La Liga)
Real Madrid and Barcelona face off early on in 2013 in the first of three matches this Wednesday. The teams already played three matches this season including two Spanish Super Cup tilts and a league match. Both squads split the Spanish Super Cup tilts and then drew 2-2 at the Camp Nou in a match that will be remembered for the electrifying performances of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
As Wednesday's match approaches, Latinos Post will preview various players and performances from both squads to determine which team has been better as of late and has a greater chance at winning the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals.
First angle is both sides' defenders.
Barça's defense is healthy and has been lethal. When these two teams last met, Barcelona was playing without Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol. The defense was relying heavily on Alex Song and an out-of-position, Sergio Busquets. That has not been the case for Barcelona during the last few weeks and they have proven to be one of the top defenses in the league. More importantly, the team's defense has strengthened its offense. Pique scored during the 4-2 Copa del Rey win over Malaga and Jordi Alba has two goals on the season.
Since 2008, the Barcelona defense has only allowed eight goals against Real Madrid in league play, an incredibly impressive figure considering the fact that Madrid has such weapons as Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain, and Angel Di Maria. In three Copa Del Rey matches since 2010-11, Barcelona has allowed four goals against Real Madrid, including three to Ronaldo.
The Real Madrid defense is one of the team's strong points. Los Merengues have allowed fewer goals than Barcelona in league play and have only conceded four goals in six Copa del Rey matches. Unlike Barcelona's defense, the Madrid defense is not as active offensively. This match will be determined by how well Madrid's defense performs for two reasons. Barcelona's possession style likely guarantees them the majority of possession and the Madrid defenders will need to remain concentrated and close the gaps that have exposed them in the past.
More importantly, the team will not have Iker Casillas in goal. The Captain usually provides the team with sound support in these matches even when they are at their worst. However, Antonio Adan has never played in one of these matches and the pressure-filled atmosphere could create jitters for him. His defense needs to be ready to support him as much as possible and cover up for any potential gaffes the inexperience keeper might commit.
In matches against Barcelona since 2008 however, the Real Madrid defense has been woeful at best and has allowed 23 goals in nine matches; among them was a 6-2 loss in May 2009 and a 5-0 loss in November 2010. In the only three Copa del Rey matches between these teams since 2010-11, Madrid has only allowed three goals; none of them have been scored by Lionel Messi.
Advantage: It is about even. Madrid has a more solid defense core than Barcelona, but the Barça defenders will likely not have to work as hard on that side of the ball as the Madrid defenders will.