Real Madrid vs Barcelona Match Preview | Copa Del Rey Odds, Pick

Real Madrid vs Barcelona Match Preview | Copa Del Rey Odds, Pick article feature image

Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty. Pictured: Frenkie de Jong.

Real Madrid vs Barcelona Odds

Thurs, Mar. 2
3 p.m. ET

Real Madrid Odds


Barcelona Odds

Over/Under2.5 (-110 / -122)
Both Teams to Score (Yes/No)(-140 / +110)
Odds via FanDuel. Get the latest soccer odds here.

Real Madrid and Barcelona have basically had the inverse season from one another. While Real Madrid are rolling through Europe and are headed toward a Champions League quarterfinal after beating Liverpool 5-2, they're lagging well behind in the La Liga title race.

They're seven points behind Barcelona in Spain and have dropped points against Real Sociedad, Mallorca and Atlético Madrid in the last month.

Barcelona crashed out of not one, but two European competitions after losses to Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and recently, Manchester United. There's no more European matches to worry about for Barcelona, so all focus switches to the domestic ones as they travel to Madrid for a Copa del Rey semifinal on Thursday.

Barca have been dominant in La Liga and destroyed Real Madrid on a neutral site in the Spanish Super Cup final in Riyadh in January. Real Madrid won the only league meeting between them at home in the fall, but Barcelona have dropped points in just four league matches all season.

With no chance at European silverware, I'd expect a full strength Barcelona lineup on Thursday, even though Robert Lewandowski will miss with injury.

Real Madrid Face Tactical Disadvantages

Real Madrid's greatest strength under Carlo Ancelotti is the team's tactical flexibility. They're capable and conformable winning and setting up in a variety of ways to counter the opponent's approach. This was on full display against Liverpool, when they were played off the park for the first 30 minutes but made tactical switches to break through the Liverpool press and expose their transition defense in the second half.

The result was five goals and a resounding away victory at Anfield. Despite the flexibility, there are still major defensive flaws in this team. Thibaut Courtois is having an average shot stopping season and the cracks in the Real defense have been expanded and exposed. The midfield ball stopping doesn't prevent middling La Liga attacks from getting shots and box entries.

They're not good at pressing from the front, and the result is that Real Madrid can be easily passed through by premier passing teams. Liverpool showed this in the opening 30 and Barcelona put on a 90 minute clinic in January. Real Madrid are just 12th in passes per defensive action and they rank in the bottom five in Spain in pass completion rate allowed.

When they face off against a dominant possession side like Barcelona, that's where their weaknesses can get exposed. Barcelona wants a slow tempo game that enables them to strangle possession. They have flaws defensively and Real can absolutely expose it at times, but that's only if they're able to win the ball enough.

Even in the match that Real Madrid won, they lost 1.2 to 2.0 in terms of xG and relied on finishing variance to win the match 2-1 at home. Real's defensive numbers have slipped since then and Barcelona's attack has only improved.

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Barcelona Should Be Comfortable Despite Injuries

Barcelona are dealing with some significant injuries at the moment, but it's important not to overreact to consecutive losses to Manchester United and Almeria.

Lewandowski, Pedri and Ousmanê Dembele will all miss this first leg on Thursday, but Xavi may have Ansu Fati back in the rotation. Ferran Torres is more than capable as a central forward, Raphinha is fit to play out wide and this team is still more than capable of controlling possession in the midfield exchanges.

The away loss to Almeria in a match that was even on chances created is one that can happen to any dominant team over the course of a 38-match season. When you factor in that Barcelona ere three days removed from a crushing away defeat in Manchester, the flat performance is more explainable.

Xavi's Barcelona are still first in field tilt, first in expected threat and first in xG at both ends of the pitch. They have the most effective press in the entire league by PPDA and should be able to play through the Real midfield.

Real Madrid haven't created more xG than Barcelona in a head-to-head matchup in any of the five meetings throughout the last 1.5 seasons.

Real Madrid vs Barcelona Pick

By just about any metric, Barcelona have better numbers than Real Madrid and are the better side in and out of possession this season. Even with the Lewandowski injury, that should only improve Barcelona's defending from the front out of possession. It will downgrade the attack, but Torres coming in for Lewandowski upgrades the transition defense.

Barcelona aren't the only side dealing with injuries, as David Alaba and Ferland Mendy remain out for this match. Rodrygo is also questionable as the key third attacker alongside Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior.

The market moved solidly toward Real Madrid since the opener, and it's moved into range where I'd play Barcelona to get at least a draw. They're the better team overall by any power rating, and even on the road in a first leg, they should be closer to a pick'em.

Pick: Barcelona +0.5 (-110)

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