Published: Wed, February 06, 2019
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

Barcelona-Real Madrid combined XI

Barcelona-Real Madrid combined XI

Wednesday's first-leg sees Barca enjoying an extra day of recovery from the weekend's round. "If the league ended tomorrow, it would be a different question". But Barcelona continue to be the favourites going into the match.

"El Clasico does not change without Messi; in a semi-final between Barca and Madrid there is no favourite, it is an open tie, we have good players, they too", he said.

"In football, it's always best that the best players play in every game, that's just how it is", Solari said.

However, according to Spanish journalist Guillem Balague, the five-time Ballon d'Or victor will play in Wednesday's eagerly-anticipated game.

Solari, meanwhile, has practically a full squad at his disposal - including the in-form Karim Benzema and fully fit Gareth Bale - with only little-used defender Jesus Vallejo unavailable.

Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele is unlikely to be fit for the game, as he is still recovering from a hamstring injury.

"Real Madrid usually play well at the Camp Nou", Valverde said.

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Messi is a doubt for the game having picked up a thigh problem in Saturday's 2-2 La Liga draw with Valencia, with tests to determine the extent of the injury due on Tuesday.

Messi has scored in nine straight games in all competitions, and is the league leading scorer with 21 in 22 matches. He was rested two weeks ago when Barcelona lost at Sevilla 2-0 in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals.

"It is nearly impossible to stop the competitor Messi if he wants to play".

Barcelona are aiming to win a fifth-straight Copa del Rey with Valencia or Real Betis awaiting them in the final should they beat Real Madrid.

The Argentinian missed training on Monday but was back with the squad on Tuesday evening.

Barcelona also have a higher average number of goals without him against their fierce rivals, than when he is on the pitch, albeit he has only been absent from three games.

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