Barca primed for gruelling ‘Clasico’ Cup tie
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has said his side’s Copa del Rey semi-final clashes with Real Madrid will further exhaust his players at a pivotal moment in the season but will also provide a great spectacle for fans.
Thirty-times winners Barcelona, who have won the last four editions of the Copa del Rey, will host Real in the first leg on Feb. 6, with the second leg on Feb. 27 or Feb. 28 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Real Betis will host Valencia in the first leg of the other semi on Feb. 7 and visit Mestalla in the second. The final takes place in Seville on May 25.
Friday’s draw means Spain’s two biggest clubs will play each other three times in four weeks and twice within four days, as Real host Barca in La Liga on March 2, after the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Barca’s two visits to the home of their eternal rivals come sandwiched between both legs of their Champions League last 16 tie with Olympique Lyonnais, further clogging a gruelling schedule as they also bid to successfully defend their La Liga crown.
“This makes the season even more exciting, two intense games that will take a toll on us physically but which will be very attractive for the fans and for us,” Valverde told a news conference ahead of Saturday’s La Liga game against Valencia.
“Our schedule is very tough, if you play permanently and don’t get knocked out of competitions the level of tiredness is brutal. We have to think long term and short-term, because we don’t want to slip up in the league.
Barca thrashed Real Madrid 5-1 in the last ‘Clasico’ in October and lead their rivals by 10 points in the standings, although Santiago Solari’s side are on enjoying a rival, winning five of their last six games in all competitions and scoring 15 goals.
“They were doing badly in the league but now Madrid are much better and it will be a difficult tie,” added Valverde, whose side have a five-point lead over nearest challengers Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga.
“It will be a great tie, two massive games in a moment in which both teams will be fighting for La Liga and starting again in the Champions League.”
Barca overcame a 2-0 deficit from their quarter-final first leg against Sevilla, thrashing the Andalusians 6-1 in the return leg to progress 6-3 on aggregate.
Real Madrid had a more comfortable path to the last four, beating Girona 4-2 at home and winning 3-1 away for a 7-3 aggregate win.