Real Madrid started the season in disarray after their record breaking manager Zidane left after winning three UCL back to back. Afterwards, their greatest player of modern era, Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juve. Madrid appointed Lopetegui which caused a great stir since he was with Spain heading for the WC and was ultimately sacked by Spanish FA after the declaration of the news. Their nadir for the season reached with their 5-1 defeat at Bernabeau against a Messi less barca, after which Lopetegui was sacked.
On the contrary, Barca started their’s in relatively better fashion. They added Lenglet and Vidal, promoted Alena and were expecting to have a good start. However they started sluggish and were stuttering and dropping points everywhere, then they got relatively stable and reached top of the table. But slowly it was clear that most of the issues which plagued barca last season, were present this season too, rearing it’s ugly head here and there. Barca’s victories were laboured with the common theme of Ter Stegan becoming superman in goal again as usual and Messi doing everything up front on his own with occasional help from Dembele. Coutinho was and is having a stinker of a season, Samuel Umtiti was out for long term (he has come back just recently) and the Great Suarez continuing his slump. Just like last season, Suarez is scoring goals, but most of his goals are inconsequential and his conversion rate has been horrendous. Most importantly, when Barca needed him the most, Suarez has been firing blanks. This is the reason Barca has been suffering in knockout marches in recent times. Messi can’t carry Barca every match, contributions from elsewhere is essential. Because Messi and Barca creates a plethora of chances, hence his goal tally is decent, but he is miles away from being as decisive as the Suarez of Liverpool or like his first two seasons at Barca. Classic example was the last match against Sevilla, Suarez had a horrendous match, but at the end scored a goal from a gorgeous Messi pass, when Messi already completed the comeback with a hattrick. So the score sheet will show that Suarez had a decent game with an important goal scored in a 4-2 victory, whilst the reality was something else. In short barca have issues, big issues, with Messi and Ter Stegan carrying them again. If Messi has even one rough game or is neutralised by three or four players continously marking him, there is not a single player to make a difference. Coutinho has been a major disappointment and Dembele is too inconsistent, the lesser we speak about Boetang, the better it is.
The change in fortunes between the eternal rivals was clear in recent times. Madrid is slowly coming back to front under Solari and are now trailing barca by nine points in league. More importantly they played the first leg of cope semis to a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou and could well have won it.They are the favourites to proceed in the next leg at bernabeau since they have an away goal. Plus they have won their away leg against Ajax 2-1. Barca on the other hand ended the draw at Lyon on a disappointing 0-0. So even a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou will mean, Lyon will progress to next round. Now they face Real Madrid in back to back away classicos. After the classicos, barca have a tough away match and then return league against Lyon at Camp Nou.
Madrid are the favourites based on current form and if they win the next two classicos, not only they reach the Copa finals at the expense of Barca, but they cut Barca’s lead to six points and will be back on heels for the league. Most importantly, it will give Barca such a psychological shock and Lyon a big psychological boost, that Lyon might progress at the expense of Barcelona at Nou camp, which already is a big possibility given the result of the first leg. Hence the entire season of Barcelona can gate crash within the next two weeks and Madrid can have a real impact and get back in their hunt for the treble. What better, if they can get the catapult at the expense of their eternal rivals.
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