With two El Clasicos to be played in a span of four days, the tension in Spain can be cut with a knife. As for the neutrals, a footballing extravaganza is in store as Real Madrid host Barcelona twice in quick succession, as part of the Copa del Rey semi-finals that will decide the finalist and a league fixture that could have a say in the title race.
The two rivals have met twice this season, both times at the Camp Nou. Barcelona were 5-1 winners in October, whereas the first leg of the Copa del Rey semis earlier this month saw a 1-1 draw.
Real Madrid hold the away goal advantage and a clean sheet at the Santiago Bernabeu can send them to the finals, but expect the Los Blancos to play for a win and attempt to make a statement.
We take a look at the tactics Santiago Solari could employ in the second leg of the cup semis.
WINGERS NEED TO BE WARY
Although Malcom was providing Madrid with enough to guard against in the first leg, the prospect of Ousmane Dembele starting on the right wing sends a message of caution to the Madrid camp.
With Jordi Alba advancing up the left flank and creating problems like he always does, the hosts will feel the need to retreat wingers Gareth Bale and Vinicius Junior and hand them additional defensive duties. Though Bale will reportedly start, Lucas Vazquez remains a strong contender as well given his expertise in this era.
Barcelona’s weakness is clearly their passive midfield. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos could step on the accelerator and push Sergio Busquets as deep as possible, hence stripping Barca of control in midfield.
This will also enable them to act as a support system to Karim Benzema who would otherwise be isolated up-front.
VINICIUS TO SHIFT INSIDE RATHER THAN HUG TOUCHLINE
Despite displaying some of his skill set in the first leg, Vinicius failed to really trouble the Barcelona back-line. To his credit, Nelson Semedo produced a solid defensive show to prevent Vinicius from playing to his potential.
Solari could consider getting the young Brazilian to target the space between centre-back and full-back as opposed to be stationed out wide. This way, the youngster will be up against a slower defender in Gerard Pique.
Also, with Semedo advancing, the Brazilian will be left with a lot of space to exploit on the wing as he latches on to a throughball or clearance by Sergio Reguilon. He can then stretch the field, with space on his side, as Semedo tracks back or has a go at goal himself.
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