Madrid - Real Madrid are likely to be relying on the Champions League again
for another trophy this season but there was room for encouragement
against Barcelona on Wednesday beyond their resounding defeat.
Barca's 3-0 victory, 4-1 on aggregate, means they go through to meet
either Valencia or Real Betis in the Copa del Rey final, while their
lead at the top of La Liga already makes them heavy favourites for
another domestic double.
Madrid have been unable to match the consistency of their rivals this
term but there was enough in their performance at the Santiago Bernabeu
to suggest they can do them damage when the sides meet again on
Saturday in the league for a second Clasico in four days.
"We are sad because we wanted to play in the final but we go out with our heads held high," Madrid coach Santiago Solari said.
"We did everything we could. We didn't take our chances and they took theirs."
Midfielder Casemiro said Real were already looking forward to Saturday's rematch.
"We played well," said the Brazilian. "The result was not good but we
will be waiting for them on Saturday. The result was not a fair
reflection of the game."
Vinicius Junior was Madrid's brightest spark but he also missed a
hatful of chances before Barca's Luis Suarez scored twice, either side
of a Raphael Varane own goal.
The worry for Solari is not that his side were unable to put
Barcelona under pressure but that they failed to kill them off, with
some again pointing to the absence of a predator like Cristiano
"Scoring one goal in 180 minutes of football is not enough to knock
out Barcelona," said sports website AS on Wednesday. "Without pointing
the blame, the truth is Los Blancos miss Cristiano Ronaldo in these
types of games."
Karim Benzema had helped fill the void during a golden streak earlier
this year but he has faded, while Gareth Bale's patchy displays since
returning from injury have seen him reduced to a role on the bench. Vinicius is lively but the 18 year-old lacks composure in front of
goal. "Vinicius does not have the precision to finish," said newspaper
El Pais. "He is a reflection of the team he plays for, who are halfway
to nobody knows where."
Solari defended the youngster. "The more you play, the more you learn," he said.
In contrast, Suarez had barely touched the ball in the first half but
came alive in the crucial moments and would have had a hat-trick had
Varane not beaten him to Ousmane Dembele's cross to bundle in an
"When he is in the area he is at 200 per cent," Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said. "He has a sense for where the goal is."
Suarez and Lionel Messi had both faced accusations of dips in recent
weeks but the pair have now scored five goals in Barca's last two games,
following Messi's hat-trick against Sevilla on Saturday.
Their surge is timely given a second leg against Lyon in the
Champions League is just around the corner, with the tie goalless and
delicately poised heading into the return at the Camp Nou.
"We want to win everything," Valverde said. "That is what our fans want."
Some have suggested going far in the Copa del Rey harms Barca's
chances in Europe but Valverde picked his strongest side against Madrid,
and is likely to do so again on Saturday.
Barcelona lead Real by nine points in La Liga, with Atletico Madrid seven points behind and still the closest challengers.
"They both seem far away but they are not," said Barcelona defender
Gerard Pique. "We have to come here with our batteries fully charged