Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde is expecting a fierce battle when Real Madrid comes to town in what he dubbed a “Clasico twice over”.
The Camp Nou has not been a good hunting ground for Los Blancos in recent times especially after their 5-1 thumping in October.
But Valverde feels it would be different this time considering their improved and the absence of Lionel Messi who suffered a thigh injury in their 2-2 draw against Valencia.
“It’s a Clasico twice over,” Valverde told a news conference via FourFourTwo. “Of course it’s a special game, it’s a semi-final against a very big team.
“It does make it even more attractive, having the chance to get to the final, and it’s the same for them too.
“When we prepare the game obviously we have the reference of the players and how they performed [in the 5-1], but there was a different morale [at Madrid] at that time, that counts for a lot.
“Madrid tend to be very strong at Camp Nou, the last game we were strong and won clearly but they were in a delicate spot and they’re better now. We’ll see the best of Real Madrid tomorrow, that’s what we’ve seen in the last few games.”
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 5, 2019
A semi-final against Madrid adds to a complicated fixture list for Barca, but Valverde feels a busy schedule should not be used as an excuse for either side.
“Fixtures lists are always difficult at this time of year, throughout January, and with this semi-final with two top-level games, league games, and the Champions League starting soon, we all need to be careful,” Valverde added.
“But we still haven’t hit the decisive part of the season yet. We need to use all the players we can and we’ll analyse if we need to make changes tomorrow or Sunday. We have a week off next week, no Champions League game, so we will get a rest then.”