Real Madrid host Barcelona on Wednesday in their Champions League semi-final first-leg match, buoyed by improving fortunes against the Catalans.After suffering a 5-0 thrashing at the Nou Camp in their first La Liga meeting of 2010-11 last November, Real held Pep Guardiola’s side to a 1-1 draw at home on April 16 – although they needed a penalty from Cristiano Ronaldo eight minutes from the end to salvage a point.
Last Wednesday, Jose Mourinho’s men claimed their first Copa del Rey since 2004 when Ronaldo’s extra-time winner lifted them to a 1-0 win over Barca in the season’s third El Clasico encounter.
Now, with Barca easily accounting for Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk and Real eliminating Spurs in their respective Champions League quarter-finals, the two giants of Spanish football will prepare for meetings four and five in the space of the next week.
Despite a 2-0 win over La Liga relegation battlers Osasuna on Saturday, Guardiola looks like the manager with most of the problems heading into Wednesday’s first leg at the Bernabeu, especially at the back.
Versatile Brazilian defender Adriano will miss out with a hamstring injury, while Eric Abidal is still recovering from surgery to remove a tumour from his liver.
In the centre of defence, Carlos Puyol and Gabriel Milito are both under fitness clouds.
Meanwhile, Mourinho’s squad – who mauled third-placed Valencia 6-3 away from home on Saturday – seems to be hitting their best form at the right end of the season.
Although they will be without injured Germany midfielder Sami Khedira, Brazilian playmaker Kaka and Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain look to be back on song after missing large chunks of the season through injury.
Higuain scored a hat-trick while Kaka bagged a brace in the Valencia game to give Mourinho plenty of options in attack, with winger Angel Di Maria and striker Emmanuel Adebayor both missing the match through injury.