Barcelona can end Real's title hopes

MADRID • After eliminating Real Madrid from the King's Cup in midweek, Barcelona now have the opportunity to send their arch-rivals packing in the title race, too.

The Spanish champions' 3-0 semi-final, second-leg win means they will go into their LaLiga Clasico clash with a spring in their step, even though Real were the better side in the second leg.

A repeat today at the Santiago Bernabeu would leave Santiago Solari's side 12 points adrift of Barcelona, who also enjoy a superior head-to-head record.

That would be a gargantuan gap to make up with 12 games left.

Atletico Madrid are closer, seven points back, and they still have to play Barca in April, albeit at the Nou Camp, where they have not won in 18 visits.

But there is no doubt bumping Real out of the chase would be a major step for the Catalan giants and they should feel confident if recent form between the two is any guide.

  • 12

  • Points behind leaders Barcelona if Real Madrid lose the Clasico with 12 LaLiga games left.

The Cup victory was Barcelona's fourth in six games at the Bernabeu and they have scored three or more in each of those matches. Defender Gerard Pique believes his team have Real worked out as they "know how to get at them".

Ernesto Valverde's men certainly taught Solari's players a lesson in finishing on Wednesday, with Luis Suarez notching his 11th goal in all Clasico encounters.

Tipping the Uruguay striker to again make the difference up front, Valverde told Spanish daily AS: "I don't think there are many players capable of scoring three times against Madrid twice in the same season.

"When Luis Suarez is in the area, he is at 200 per cent."

On Thursday, Valencia sealed a 1-0 second-leg victory over Real Betis to book their spot in the King's Cup final against Barca on May 25.

A 2-2 first-leg draw had given Marcelino's men the edge and they put in a solid performance to reach their first major final since winning the competition in 2008.

The Valencia coach said post-game: "We have suffered a lot this season and the team deserved this reward, we have had very difficult moments.

"We deserve better than the results show. There have been many draws, a few defeats. We are always competitive."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

REAL V BARCELONA

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2019, with the headline 'Barcelona can end Real's title hopes'. Print Edition | Subscribe