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Copa del Rey

Barcelona v Real Madrid: Battle of the Defences

All of the talk will be about Messi and Ronaldo but the Copa del Rey semi-final could be decided by a battle between the defences.

Barcelona and Real Madrid go into the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final all square at 1-1. Don’t expect a landslide in either direction because this could well be a tight match decided by the odd goal.

Barcelona have conceded ten goals at home in the league this season because they play with a very open system and leave a lot of space. They like to press the opposition high up the pitch which makes them vulnerable to the counter attack.

Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano started in the middle of the defence against Sevilla over the weekend but expect to see Carles Puyol and Jordi Alba coming back into the back four.

Puyol is essential to the back four when Barcelona are playing a team which can put them under serious pressure, which Real Madrid can. Alba is also important because with Dani Alves he provides the only natural width Barca have going forward.

Away from home the Real Madrid side has leaked goals this season with 14 conceded. However, this is to do with the varying tactics that Jose Mourinho uses which change with almost every away game.

Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho started in the middle of the defence in their last game and both could be replaced with Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane both likely to come back into the side.

If that’s not the case then expect to see Pepe holding his position in the middle as he’s better equipped to aggressively deal with the Barca runs in behind the Real Madrid defence.

The vulnerability of each defence is down the wings. Real Madrid will be looking to exploit the space left by Dani Alves and Jordi Alba while Barcelona will look to utilise the right because Marcelo is hardly the ideal defender.

This is going to be a match which is decided by whichever team’s back four does their job the most effectively. Barcelona probably just have the edge because the pairing of Pique and Puyol looks a lot more solid.

However, Mourinho is likely to stress to his defence that they just need to do the basics well because when a side retains its basic shape, Barca sometimes struggle to get through and AC Milan are the perfect example that they can be picked off over 90 minutes.

Which way do you see this match going?

images: © borkur.net, © markus unger, © Oh Barcelona

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