Barcelona vs Real Madrid LIVE
Copa Del Rey 2018-19, semi-final first leg
Venue: Camp Nou
Kick-off: 8pm GMT, tonight
Barcelona and Real Madrid face off at Camp Nou in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-finals tonight.
Aiming to lift the trophy for the fifth season in succession, the hosts, having already seen off Cultural Leonesa and Levante, produced an epic comeback against Sevilla to book their place in the last four.
Real Madrid, who currently sit third and eight points behind Barcelona in LaLiga, have not won the competition since 2014.
Los Blancos saw off Melilla and Leganes before a comfortable two-legged defeat of Girona to set up a Clasico clash in the Copa del Rey semis.
Follow El Clasico LIVE with Ben Hayward at Camp Nou!
Messi is ‘100%’
Barça’s assistant coach Jon Aspiazu to Gol: “We didn’t want to take any risk. Messi is 100%, but we preferred for him to start on the bench. He could come on at any moment.”
Ben Hayward is at the Nou Camp for Standard Sport
Lionel Messi is only on the bench for Barcelona in tonight’s Clasico clash against Real Madrid at Camp Nou.
The Argentine attacker received treatment for a thigh problem late on in the 2-2 draw against Valencia in La Liga here on Saturday and has been replaced by Malcom in the starting XI for tonight’s Copa del Rey semi-final first leg.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen starts in goal as Jasper Cillessen misses out with a calf injury and the rest of the Barca line-up is as pretty much expected, with Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez in attack alongside Malcom in the absence of Ousmane Dembele, who was left out of the squad as he recovers from an ankle problem.
Coach Ernesto Valverde has opted for Nelson Semedo at left-back, perhaps to combat the pace of Vinicius Junior.
The in-form Brazilian makes his Clasico debut for Real Madrid alongside Karim Benzema and Lucas Vazquez, with Gareth Bale only on the bench for this one.
Marcelo returns at left-back to replace Sergio Reguilon, with Toni Kroos restored in midfield after a rest at the weekend against Alaves on Sunday and Marcos Llorente picked ahead of Casemiro in the defensive midfield role.
As usual in the cup, Keylor Navas starts in goal.
No Lionel Messi
It looks like Ernesto Valverde has decided against risking his star man. Lionel Messi is only among the substitutes tonight,
We’re half an hour from team news at the Nou Camp…
Real Madrid arrive at this Clasico on a run of seven wins in their last eight games, with their only defeat coming in the second leg of their last 16 tie in this competition against Leganes, with qualification in the bag.
By contrast, when they came to the Nou Camp earlier in the season in the league, they were on a run of just one win in five.
Barca’s slow starts
Barcelona have made an unhappy habit of starting slowly in the first legs of their ties in this year’s competition, albeit often with a weakened team.
They kicked off with a scrappy 1-0 win over third tier outfit Cultural Leonesa, and then lost first legs against both Levante and Sevilla. They may not get away with having to chase a lead at the Bernabeu in a few weeks’ time.
Flags are being left on every seat at the Nou Camp this evening.
We’re less than two hours away from team news and it really will be intriguing to see what both managers decide to do.
Real Madrid probably need this competition more than Barcelona, given their league position.
However, they also have a Madrid derby on Saturday to think about, whereas Barca don’t play until Sunday, when they go to Athletic Bilbao.
The other semi-final first leg takes place tomorrow night, when Real Betis host Valencia.
Betis have an added incentive this season, with the final set to take place at their Estadio Benito Villamarín.
‘Rashford could thrive at Barca’ – Kluivert
Marcus Rashford is enjoying a fruitful post-Jose Mourinho renaissance under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United and boasts the attributes necessary to potentially succeed at Barcelona, according to Patrick Kluivert.
England striker Rashford has thrived since the change of management at Old Trafford, becoming a regular fixture in the starting XI and netting six goals in 10 matches, including the early winner in Sunday’s tense 1-0 victory at Leicester.
However, former Barcelona star Kluivert concedes that prising Rashford away from Manchester would be a tall order.
“I like Marcus Rashford, a lot,” he told sport360. “It will be really difficult to get him over, but he is a good player.
“I don’t see a lot of players who can play in Barcelona. There is not a lot. Maybe some players who can play in La Liga, young players.
“But for me, I think the best one is Marcus Rashford.”
A feast of Clasicos
Tonight marks the first of three Clasicos in a month, a mouth-watering proposition.
But that’s nothing compared to the glorious run of four Clasicos in 18 days at the back end of the 2010/11 season.
The run began with a 1-1 draw in LaLiga, before Cristiano Ronaldo’s extra time goal won the Copa Del Rey for Madrid.
However, it was Barcelona who would have the last laugh, winning the first leg of their Champions League semi-final 2-0 at the Bernabeu, before a 1-1 draw in the return leg sent them to the final at Wembley.
Crunching the Clasico numbers
Real Madrid – 95
Barcelona – 94
Draw – 50
Real Madrid 11-1 Barcelona (11 June 1943)
26 – Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
18 – Alfredo Di Stefano (Real Madrid)
18 – Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
15 – Raul (Real Madrid)
14 – Cesar (Barcelona)
43 – Manuel Sanchis (Real Madrid)
42 – Xavi (Barcelona), Francisco Gento (Real Madrid)
40 – Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
39 – Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
37 – Iker Casillas, Fernando Hierro, Raul (Real Madrid)
What Barca would miss without Messi
Lionel Messi enjoys Clasicos. In fact, he’s scored 26 goals and created 14 assists in 38 games against Real Madrid since his debut in this fixture back in 2005.
But despite his incredible record against Los Blancos, Messi has never scored in the Copa Del Rey against the Spanish giants.
He’ll be hoping to put that right tonight if he makes the starting XI. The 31-year-old suffered a thigh injury against Leganes and it seems it will be touch and go right until kick-off to see if the Argentinian magician is able to play.
Barcelona might have won 5-1 in the league fixture back in October, but this is a different Real Madrid now. Armed with Messi, their chances of sealing another victory at the Camp Nou would be significantly higher.
Madrid relieved as Dembele misses out
The pressure on the shoulders of this talented 21-year-old was nothing of his own doing. Ousmane Dembele was just remarkably good at football; he certainly didn’t ask to cost £96.8 million.
Naturally, that pressure got the better of Dembele in his first season and he scored just three goals in La Liga. But after adjusting to life at the Camp Nou, the French winger is showing everybody what he is about.
The winger has bagged 13 goals in all competitions this season – the best return in his career – and it’s only February. That includes a man of the match performance against Leganes and a double against Levante in the last round of the Copa Del Rey.
Dembele is ruled out of the first leg of the Copa Del Rey semi-final after failing to recover in time from injury – and Real Madrid will be relieved. His pace, dribbling skills and ability to conjure up a chance from nothing will be sorely missed by Barcelona.
Ramos happy with penalty duties
Sergio Ramos says he is happy being Real Madrid’s penalty-taker and insists he doesn’t mean to disrespect anyone with his Panenka style.
The 32-year-old has scored nine goals this season, seven of which have been from the penalty spot, after taking charge of the duty previously fulfilled by Cristiano Ronaldo.
“When Cristiano left, I decided to take the responsibility,” Ramos told El Hormiguero, as cited by Marca.
“It is something I enjoy doing, they make me happy and I hope my style (of taking Panenkas) is not disrespecting or offending anyone, if it has done then I apologise.”
Barcelona get shirty over new kit design
How fierce is the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid? This fierce.
Barcelona reportedly reject a proposed shirt design from Nike for the their 2020/2021 third kit…because it looked too similar to something Madrid would wear.
Featuring the cross of Sant Jordi on a white shirt, the Catalan club’s board objected to the colours on show.
Looks more like an England strip than anything.
Valverde faces tough choices
Ernesto Valverde has the dilemma every manager in world football would love to have. As Barcelona coach, the Spaniard has an abundance of world-class players to work with and can only select 11, so some big names are left out.
At right-back, for instance, he can choose between the versatile Sergio Roberto or speed merchant Nelson Semedo. The former shone in the 5-1 thrashing of Real Madrid in October, but Semedo has featured 14 times in La Liga this season.
In midfield, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic are poised to start which leaves the final position in the midfield three. Arthur showed his true ability with a phenomenal performance in the last Clasico, while Arturo Vidal has chipped in with some crucial goals this season.
And finally, the Messi question. Does Valverde risk his star man aggravating his thigh injury in a game where he might not be needed?
Five things you didn’t know about the Copa Del Rey…
+ The competition’s all-time top scorer is Telmo Zarra (81), a goal machine who spent 15 glorious years at Athletic Bilbao between 1940-1955. He led the Basque outfit to the Copa three years in a row during the Second World War, as well as the Liga in 1943.
+ Lionel Messi’s strike in the 6-1 win over Sevilla was his 50th in the competition – the sixth-highest total behind Zarra, Josep Samitier, Guillermo Gorostiza, Quini and Edmundo Suarez. He will equal Suarez’s total with two more goals.
+ Barcelona have won the competition for four straight years and 30 times in total. Real Madrid have triumphed as winners 19 times but surprisingly, have lost in 20 of the finals they have played.
+ In the very first final, Athletic Bilbao beat Madrid FC (renamed Real Madrid) 3-2 back in 1903.
+ When Real Madrid won the Copa in 2011, Sergio Ramos accidentally dropped the 15kg trophy from the top of a double-decker bus, which then ran over it. The club received a copy, which is now on display at the Santiago Bernabeu. Oh Sergio…
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Score prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid
Real Madrid’s crushing 5-1 loss on their last visit to the Camp Nou was a fifth in six matches and curtailed the dismal, shortlived reign of Julen Lopetegui after just four and a half months.
However, they have won each of their last four matches across all competitions under Santiago Solari and will be desperate to give a better account of themselves this time around.
Barcelona should be aiming to keep their treble hopes alive and kicking and may settle for taking a narrow first-leg lead to the Santiago Bernabeu for the return fixture which takes place on February 27 – three days before the two teams go head-to-head again in the league at the same venue.
Barcelona vs Real Madrid team news and predicted line-ups
Ernesto Valverde will make a late decision on Lionel Messi, but Ousmane Dembele misses out.
Messi has been named in the squad after training on Tuesday, having received treatment for a thigh problem in Saturday’s 2-2 with Valencia and LaLiga and subsequently missed Monday’s session.
It remains to be seen whether the Argentine attacker will start or feature as a substitute in the Clasico, but Dembele will not be involved after failing to make the squad as he recovers from an ankle injury. The French winger should be back for the trip to Athletic Club in La Liga on Sunday.
If Messi is left on the bench, Valverde could opt for youngster Carles Alena in a wide role, with winger Malcom another alternative.
Goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, who usually starts for Barca in the Copa del Rey and was a hero as he saved a penalty in last Wednesday’s 6-1 win over Sevilla, is out with a calf problem.
That means Marc-Andre ter Stegen will feature in goal for Ernesto Valverde’s side, with 19-year-old Inaki Pena called up as his reserve.
Barcelona 4-3-3: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, Arthur, Rakitic; Messi (or Alena), Suarez, Coutinho
Santiago Solari has a strong squad at his disposal with only defender Jesus Vallejo out through injury.
Gareth Bale made his first start since returning from injury as Los Blancos beat Alaves 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday, but the Welsh winger may have to settle for a place on the bench for the trip to Camp Nou.
Vinicius Junior is in line to play from the outset in what will be his first Clasico, having been cut from the matchday squad by former coach Julen Lopetegui in October’s 5-1 defeat at Camp Nou.
Lucas Vazquez, rested on Saturday, looks likely to feature on the other side, although Solari could also opt for Bale. Meanwhile, Toni Kroos should start in midfield after he sat out on Saturday.
Right-back Dani Carvajal, suspended at the weekend in La Liga, will return in place of Alvaro Odriozola, with Solari set to keep faith in youngster Sergio Reguilon over out-of-favour Marcelo on the left.
Keylor Navas, who has lost his place to Thibaut Courtois in La Liga and the Champions League, is first choice in the Copa del Rey this season and will start at Camp Nou.
Real Madrid 4-3-3: Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Reguilon; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Vazquez, Benzema, Vinicius
TV channel and live stream online coverage
UK based fans have been unable to watch the previous rounds of the competition, but streaming service Eleven Sports have acquired the rights to broadcast this, and the rest of the remaining Copa del Rey matches – including the second leg on February 27, and both matches between Real Betis and Valencia, the other semi-final.
Matches can be viewed either on an app (Android or iOS) or via the Eleven Sports website, www.elevensports.uk, although fans will need to sync their telephones, tablets or computers to a television in order to watch games on TV.
Eleven Sports will also be showing the Spanish giants’ league clash on March 2, which means it is offering three El Clasicos at £5.99 a month now, with that price dropping to £4.99 on March 1.
Click here for more information.
You can also follow all the action on our LIVE blog with our Spanish correspondent Ben Hayward at Camp Nou.
Head to head record and history (h2h)
Barcelona and Real Madrid have played each other on 272 previous occasions across all competitions, with Barcelona leading the way with 113 victories compared to Real’s 99. There have been 60 draws.