Barca face Real today in Copa del Rey semis

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez

REAL Madrid and Barcelona suddenly see themselves facing a critical series of games that could decide their fates this season.

After being drawn to face each other in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey, the Spanish powerhouses will meet three times in less than a month, before and after other crucial games in the Spanish league and Champions League.

The next 30 days could make or break Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The critical stint begins today with the first leg of the Copa semifinals at Camp Nou Stadium, with Madrid carrying the momentum from a five-match winning streak and Barcelona enduring questions about Lionel Messi’s health.

It will be the teams’ first Copa del Rey meeting since the 2014 final, which Real Madrid won for its last title in the competition. Barcelona is trying to win a record fifth straight Copa del Rey title.

Only three days later, Madrid will visit Atletico Madrid in the city derby to try to stay in contention in the Spanish league, in which it trails Atletico by two points and Barcelona by eight after 22 matches.

Real Madrid’s next match is at Ajax in the Champions League round of 16 as it continues its bid to win an unprecedented fourth straight title in its first season without Cristiano Ronaldo in nearly a decade.

The second leg of the Copa del Rey final is on February 27 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, and the teams will meet again three days later at the same venue in a Spanish league match that could help decide the domestic title.

Barcelona stuttered with a 2-2 home draw against Valencia on Saturday, and Madrid routed Alaves 3-0 on Sunday to continue its hot streak and move within striking range of its rival. It has not been this close to the lead since December. – AP

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