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If there was ever any doubt that El Clasico remains the best game of club football in the world, Wednesday night’s fare proved it beyond doubt.
It was 90 minutes of pure footballing theatre that certainly lived up to its literal name of ‘The Classic.’
Barcelona emerged victorious at the Santiago Bernabeu, again, but things could’ve been oh so different for Real Madrid if their strikers had their shooting boots on.
Vinicius Junior, still just 18 years of age, took the game to the Catalans and was close to opening the scoring on a number of occasions. With a little more composure in front of goal, the exciting Brazilian would’ve won the match on his own.
Karim Benzema was, on the night, perhaps a little quieter than his contemporary, but no less threatening when given the opportunities.
Los Blancos’ issue was being unable to put the ball in the back of the net, which is something Barca did in clinical fashion when the chances presented themselves.
The visitors had Marc-Andre ter Stegen to thank once more for keeping them in the game at crucial moments, as the Catalans’ defence struggled to cope with the pace and directness of the hosts for long periods.
This guy is Unreal 🙌
— BarçaTimes (@BarcaTimes) February 28, 2019
Even at 0-1, when Luis Suarez dispatched a trademark finish from a deliciously inviting ball from Ousmane Dembele, Real didn’t look troubled.
However, their issues in front of goal continued and once Raphael Varane had put the ball into his own net, it was virtually game over with 20 minutes left to play as Real then needed three goals to progress to the final.
As it was, Suarez then delivered the coup de grace with a stunningly cheeky Panenka penalty in front of the Madrid faithful to send Barcelona into their sixth successive Copa del Rey final.
That’s an astonishing statistic, and something that’s never been done before in the top five European leagues.
Having won the last four consecutively, the Blaugrana can set another record should they beat either Valencia or Real Betis in May, as no team has won five Copas in succession.
Real Madrid will just have to lick their wounds and analyse what went wrong for them on the night. They’ll also realise that the loss means that Barca have now drawn level with them on 95 wins apiece since this epic rivalry began.
Unusually, Santiago Solari’s side do have an immediate chance of revenge as the teams meet again at the same venue in a league match on Saturday.
Quite how Wednesday’s result will affect them mentally will only be seen as that game unfolds.
Clearly, over the last few seasons, Barca have a hoodoo over their rivals at the Bernabeu, but that will all be forgotten should Los Blancos post a decent result come full-time.
Another loss would be them 12 points behind the Catalans and completely out of the title race, meaning that Solari would likely have to win the Champions League in order to save his job.
The pressure is all on the home side who will have to take all of their opportunities this time to be in with a chance of victory.
El Clasico Odds:
Real Madrid 17/10