Real Madrid and Barcelona are set to put the La Liga title race aside on Thursday, switching their focus to a mouth-watering Copa del Rey semifinal first leg.
Los Blancos flexed their muscles in the Champions League last week, rallying back from a two-goal deficit to crush Liverpool 5-2, but fell back to earth on Saturday with a disappointing 1-1 draw against cross-city rivals Atletico Madrid.
Though Barcelona still hold a seven-point lead at the top of La Liga, their own form has taken a hit in recent weeks, including a shock loss to Almeria at the weekend on the heels of a Europa League exit at the hands of Manchester United. A hamstring injury for Robert Lewandowski just adds to the visitors’ woes.
It doesn’t get much better than a high-stakes Clasico showdown — and our Real Madrid vs Barcelona picks and predictions sets the stage for this Thursday, March 2 matchup.
Real Madrid vs Barcelona odds
|Over 2.5 (-118)
||Under 2.5 (-106)
Odds courtesy of bet365 on March 3, 2023.
Real Madrid vs Barcelona picks and predictions
It was a forgettable weekend for both these famous clubs, but Real Madrid head into this first leg as the healthier, sharper side, with still-vivid memories of Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr. silencing Anfield.
Don’t dwell on the ugly draw with Atletico on the weekend, in which Diego Simeone’s side were down to 10 men for almost an hour. Prior to that letdown, Los Blancos had won five games in a row, spanning La Liga, FIFA Club World Cup, and Champions League action.
Most importantly, while Barcelona will be without Lewandowski, the hosts have a front line in fine form and an embarrassment of riches in midfield for Carlo Ancelotti to choose from. As the home team, I expect Real to come out on the front foot and secure at least a slender advantage ahead of the return game at Spotify Camp Nou.
This matchup can generally be relied on to deliver goals too. BTTS (both teams to score) has cashed in for six of the last eight meetings — and Real, in particular, are in free-scoring form. They’ve netted in each of their last six games, with four of those outings featuring four or more total goals.
As for Barcelona, Xavi has plenty of goal threats to turn to in Lewandowski’s absence, with Ferran Torres and Raphinha at the top of that list.
While the emotions and electric atmosphere of a Clasico clash can, on occasion, overpower the formbook, I’m grabbing the Real Madrid moneyline and pairing it with BTTS for some extra juice.
My best bet: Real Madrid to win + BTTS (+300 at bet365)
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Real Madrid vs Barcelona side analysis
Ancelotti’s men start as favorites and that feels like a fair assessment given the two team’s performances over the past few weeks. While Barcelona have hit a mini skid with consecutive losses and only one win from their last four outings, Real are showing signs of their best form.
Losing Pedri for such a big game in addition to Lewandowksi is a cruel double blow for Xavi’s side, especially with the congested midfield battle likely to have a major say in the outcome here.
Real can call on Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Aurelien Tchouameni, Federico Valverde, and Eduardo Camavinga — and that midfield depth should give the hosts an edge against Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets.
Still, don’t be surprised if the visitors get some joy through Raphinha down the right wing, with Real missing Ferland Mendy and David Alaba, their top two choices at left back. Nacho is expected to deputize there for Los Blancos and could be in for a rough 90 minutes.
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Real Madrid vs Barcelona Over/Under analysis
This is the third Clasico duel of the season, with the teams landing a 3-1 win apiece so far — and I see more goalmouth action on the cards again here. I’ve already flagged the appeal of the BTTS prop and there’s value in Over 2.5 total goals too with so much game-changing talent on show Thursday.
While surging clear at the top of La Liga, Barcelona have conceded just eight goals in their 23 league games. But three of those goals came in a loss to Real in October, and there were enough missteps in the Europa League against Manchester United to highlight some fragility in Xavi’s back four.
Most of all, though, this Real attack has looked unplayable at times over the past month. With Modric pulling the strings, this game is set up for the Benzema-Vinicius Jr. one-two punch to steal the headlines.
Real Madrid vs Barcelona game info
||Santiago Bernebeu, Madrid, ESP
||Thursday, March 2, 2023
||3:00 p.m. ET
Real Madrid vs Barcelona key injuries
Real Madrid: Rodrygo FWR (Questionable), David Alaba CB (Out), Ferland Mendy LB (Out).
Barcelona: Ansu Fati ST (Questionable), Robert Lewandowski ST (Out), Pedri CM (Out), Ousmane Dembele FWR (Out).
Real Madrid vs Barcelona weather
Expect clear conditions on Thursday in the Spanish capital, with temperatures in the low 40s at kickoff and little chance of wind or rain.
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