Barcelona: Barcelona take on Real Madrid in the return leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final this Tuesday night in the Camp Nou Stadium in what promises to be 90 minutes filled with tension.
The first leg in the Santiago Bernabeu saw Barcelona create more chances than Madrid, but fail to take them, before a Rafael Varene header gave Jose Mourinho`s side a valuable draw.
With Barcelona leading Madrid by 15 points in the BBVA Primera Liga table, Real Madrid` s season hangs on the next seven days. A win in the Camp Nou followed by another in Manchester United`s Old Trafford Stadium the following Tuesday, would make Madrid favourites for the Cup and the Champions League, but defeat to Barca and failure to overcome Manchester United would mean the club`s season ending in abject failure and possibly precipitate Mourinho`s departure as coach.
Both teams reserved key players at the weekend and it was reflected in their performances, although Lionel Messi wasn`t rested for Barca` s 2-1 win at home to Sevilla. The striker insisted in an interview on Barca TV Sunday that he felt better when he didn`t have to rest.
"I`ve been used to playing a lot of games for a long time now," said the striker, who warned that Madrid would present a severe test to a Barca side that needs to improve in defence, given that they have conceded goals in their last 11 games.
Indeed if Tuesday`s game were to finish with the same 2-2 final score as their La Liga game in the Camp Nou this season, Real Madrid would qualify on away goals, so Jordi Roura, who is still covering while Tito Vilanova receives treatment for cancer, will be at pains to ensure his side are not caught on the break by Real Madrid`s lightening counter-attack.
Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique will play in central defence, while Jordi Alba and Dani Alves play at full backs and Sergio Busquets provides cover behind Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.
The big question is whether or not David Villa`s goal against Sevilla will earn him a place in attack alongside Messi and Pedro Rodriguez.
Madrid also have selection worries with Varene, who impressed in the first leg, missing out at the weekend with a muscle injury, while Xabi Alonso is still struggling with a groin strain. There is also debate over who should lead the Madrid line as both Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema have been out of form.
Higuain did his cause no harm with his side`s winning goal in La Coruna, although Mourinho could prefer Benzema`s greater quality on the ball and ability to give a defence splitting pass, while Kaka`s performances over the past week could also earn him a surprise call-up.
Recent games between Barca and Madrid have seen the tension that existed between the two sides calm down, but given how much is at stake Tuesday, referee Undiano Mallenco could be in for a busy night.
First Published: Monday, February 25, 2013, 18:39