Spain prepares for a marathon of 'Clasicos' as Barcelona and Real Madrid point to Champions League semifinals

08:21, April 08, 2011      

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Spanish football fans can prepare themselves for a marathon of 'Classicos' between historic rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid with the sides almost certain to meet four times in just 18 days.

Barcelona's 5-1 thrashing of Shakhtar Donetsk in Wednesday' s Champions League quarter final first leg quarter-final, coupled with Madrid' s 4-0 win over Tottenham 24 hours earlier means it would take a disaster for the two sides not to fulfill their destiny of meeting in the semi-final of the competition.

The first leg of the semi-final clash will be held in Real Madrid' s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on April 27 with the decisive return match played in Barcelona's Camp Nou on May 3.

The very fact that Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho was in change of the Inter Milan side that knocked Barcelona out of the competition at the same stage last year is enough to give spice to a tie between two of the biggest rivals in European football, but the fact that the two teams have two vital matches to play before their all but certain European clash, should add even more tension to the tie.

The first of the four clashes comes on Saturday April 16 as Real Madrid entertain Barcelona in the BBVA Primera Liga. Real Madrid trail Barcelona by eight points in the league and it is hard to see how they can overhaul Barcelona' s advantage at the top of the table.

That eight point gap could have extended to 10 or even 11 points should Barcelona beat bottom of the table Almeria this Saturday and Madrid fail to win their complicated away match against fifth placed Athletic Club Bilbao.

If that is the case, the league meeting looks like being the least decisive of the four matches and it will be interesting to see if either Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola or his Madrid counterpart Jose Mourinho rest key players for the match.

The fact that Barcelona humiliated Madrid 5-0 in their league meeting in the Camp Nou earlier this season means that Madrid need to avenge their defeat and that could pressure Mourinho into fielding a strong side merely to salvage some pride.

However, the temptation for both coaches must be to rest players, because of Wednesday April 20 the two sides play again in Valencia's Mestalla Stadium when they decide the destiny of the Copa del Rey.

Real Madrid have not won the Copa since 1993 and beating Barcelona in Mestalla would save their season, no matter what happens in the League. Both sides will have their strongest sides out for this game that has a lot more than pride at stake.

Whoever wins the Copa will take a huge morale boost into the Champions League matches, although it has to be said Madrid are under greater pressure. The 5-0 from the Camp Nou hangs heavy over the Bernabeu and Barcelona already have the League title all but sewn up for a third successive season. Should the Catalans win the Cup, Madrid' s entire season and the credibility of coach Jose Mourinho will hang on their beating Barca in Europe.

If they can do that Madrid will have salvaged the season, should they fail the club' s credibility will hit rock bottom.

Source: Xinhua
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