The next day Julen Lopetegui was sacked, owing to what the club said was a “great disproportion between the quality of the staff of Real Madrid and results.” Barca were top of La Liga, Madrid ninth.There will be little comfort then for Madrid that Messi could be missing again on Wednesday, a niggle in his thigh leaving coach Ernesto Valverde, and Messi, with a decision to make.If Messi plays – and Valverde was optimistic on Sunday – it will be because he is fit. Barcelona have indicated they will not risk their captain with a gruelling month ahead.The 2-2 draw at home to Valencia last weekend means their lead in La Liga is six points over Atletico Madrid and eight over Real, but with games away to Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and then Real in the next four weeks, there is little room for complacency.Dotted between are two legs against Lyon in the Champions League, the holy grail for Barcelona this season, and perhaps the one trophy they really crave after years of underachievement.Last month, Messi even had to reject claims they would be better off out of the Copa del Rey.“It was said that we had given up in the cup, that we didn’t want it,” he said. “But in no way is this the case.”The fervour of any meeting with Real Madrid dictates it cannot be taken lightly. As Barca’s stirring comeback against Sevilla in the quarter-finals showed, the players picked will not be holding back.But for the club, and their season, it is possible Barcelona need this match less than their opponents.Revenge is one thing. Madrid’s hammering in the autumn was the final humiliation at the end of a miserable run but their trajectory, despite a dip at the start of the year, has been generally upward since.“It was a complicated time for them psychologically,” said Valverde, after the semi-final draw. “Now they are in a different moment.”This is a chance for Madrid to wrestle back momentum. They will hope that beating Barcelona over two legs, even in the Copa del Rey, can knock them out of their stride.– ‘Phenomenally well’ –After Real’s win over Alaves on Sunday, Santiago Solari said his team were ready to fight. He has played up the spirit in the camp and there have been some impressive performances to back it up, most notably against Sevilla.“The spirit is like a family,” Solari said. “I think they are doing phenomenally well.”But as coach, this is Solari’s biggest test. He has put his faith in youth but how might Alvaro Odriozola, Sergio Reguilon and, in particular, Vinicius Junior handle their first Clasico, at the Camp Nou?Gareth Bale was quiet against Alaves but could he follow Isco and Marcelo as the next big name made to fight for his place?Santiago Solari faced the media on Tuesday ahead of a Clasico that could held strengthen his position as Real Madrid coach © AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS“I see Gareth focused, connected and plugged in,” Solari said last week. “I want him to perform how he knows he can.”Solari’s own future is on the line too. He has a contract until 2021 but his position is likely to be reviewed in the summer, when blockbuster games like these will surely spring quickest to the mind of president Florentino Perez.A domestic trophy would certainly help Solari’s case. Barcelona have won the Copa del Rey in each of the last four seasons, even if its prestige now pales in comparison to the league and Champions League. For Real, there is more than just the cup at stake.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick as Barcelona humiliated Real in October © AFP/File / GABRIEL BOUYSMADRID, Spain, Feb 5 – One hundred days will split the last Clasico from the latest one and for Real Madrid the prize in the rematch is more than a place in the Copa del Rey final.When they trudged off the Camp Nou in October, the big screens above them flashed 5-1 to Barcelona, with Luis Suarez scoring three and without Lionel Messi at all, their best player injured and sitting in the stands.
Jamie Carragher has joined talkSPORT to explain comments he made urging Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford to join a club like Everton.Rashford, the forward, played the full 90 minutes in each of England’s past two matches, and scored in both the defeat to Spain and the friendly victory over Switzerland. 3 How Everton could look in January under Ancelotti with new signings “I just think for young players – Rashford is the obvious one – that they may need to come away, similar to what Lukaku did; he was at Chelsea and couldn’t come through with Mourinho, had to move to Everton, and now he’s at Manchester United.”Carragher went on to admit Rashford never became the ‘teenage sensation’ he was expected to be in his brilliant debut season, and he doubts whether the starlet will ever prove himself good enough to be Man United’s centre-forward unless given an extended chance to play the position.The former England defender continued: “I’d love nothing more, as I’m sure Rashford and United fans would, of him being the main man through the centre for Manchester United in the future.“There have been others; Michael Owen and [Robbie] Fowler at Liverpool, but they were teenage sensations… Rooney joining United at 18. He was handed the chance to start both games by Gareth Southgate, the England manager, despite being selected from the beginning for just one of Man United’s four Premier League fixtures in 2018/19; Rashford has now played more international minutes (180) this season than club minutes (121).Liverpool legend Carragher was working as a pundit for Sky Sports when he addressed Rashford’s role at Old Trafford, making the suggestion that leaving United for a club outside the Premier League’s top six would be a wise idea for the 20-year-old to push on with his career.“The problem he’s got, and it’s the same for every young striker at big clubs, nothing’s harder than that position,” Carragher opined.“Romelu Lukaku is in front of Rashford and I don’t see Rashford displacing him as long as he is there. silverware “But remember when Lukaku was at Chelsea and he had to come away and go to Everton. Then he ended up as top scorer and got his move to Man United.“Possibly Everton is the sort of club you are looking at, just below the top six, for someone like Rashford, similar to what Lukaku did.“You know you are going to play every week as the centre-forward and you know if you have a couple of games where you don’t score then you are still going to play the next week.”Carragher reacted on Twitter when talkSPORT ran the story, and he later joined the Jim White show to clarify his views by insisting he was not singling out Rashford, he was instead making a point about any young player who is struggling for game time at a top six club. Rashford netted the only goal of the game in England’s 1-0 defeat of Switzerland tense latest England’s most successful clubs of the past decade, according to trophies won Most read in Premier League Boxing Day fixtures: All nine Premier League games live on talkSPORT “We thought Rashford may have been that, but it hasn’t quite happened, so we still don’t know if he’s good enough to be Manchester United’s centre-forward.“But I don’t think we’ll ever know if he doesn’t play in that position, and I don’t see him playing in that position any time soon.” Liverpool news live: Klopp reveals when Minamino will play and issues injury update The point is not just about this player or club, but coming through as a striker at a top club is the most difficult for any young player. You have to be one of the best in Europe at a young age. Owen & Fowler teenage sensations. Kane got a chance because Spurs strikers failed. https://t.co/1VeuNCkko2— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) September 12, 2018However, Carragher did stand by his view that Rashford would be served better leaving United for game time – as he’s not as good as the player blocking his chances at Old Trafford, Lukaku.He said: “Last night, the big debate was a lot of those players had not played enough football and Gareth [Southgate] was giving them a game.“But the point on Rashford was slightly different.“It wasn’t so much about Rashford and Manchester United, it was about being a young player coming through at a top six club and the most difficult position to come through is striker. Which teams do the best on Boxing Day in the Premier League era? revealed 3 3 whoops SORRY First-choice strikers at top six clubs Rashford scored eight goals in his mesmeric breakthough season The average first-team salaries at every Premier League club in 2019 predicted Arsenal – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre LacazetteChelsea – Alvaro MorataLiverpool – Roberto FirminoManchester City – Sergio Aguero and Gabriel JesusManchester United – Romelu LukakuTottenham Hotspur – Harry Kane Did Mahrez just accidentally reveal Fernandinho is leaving Man City this summer? Guardiola-inspired tactics: Is this how Arsenal will line up under Arteta? REVEALED Sky Sports presenter apologises for remarks made during Neville’s racism discussion changes Green reveals how he confronted Sarri after Chelsea’s 6-0 defeat at Man City gameday cracker Lukaku is undeniably Man United’s first-choice centre-forward “Look at [Manchester] City; what young City striker is going to take [Sergio] Aguero’s place? Liverpool have [Roberto] Firmino who plays for Brazil, [Manchester United’s Romelu] Lukaku was at the World Cup for Belgium.“Even though Chelsea have struggled for centre-forwards since [Diego] Costa they’ve still got a man who’s played for Juventus and Real Madrid in [Alvaro] Morata.“That position is the most difficult to come through and establish yourself.“That’s not me saying: ‘[Jose] Mourinho doesn’t give young players a chance’ or ‘Rashford should be playing’, because I don’t think Rashford should be playing for Manchester United at centre-forward – I don’t think he’s as good as Lukaku.“But how will he ever get to that standard of the strikers I’ve just mentioned if he doesn’t play centre-forward?“I think in other positions on the pitch you can bed yourself in, but as a striker you’ve got to win the game.“Top clubs can’t wait for a young striker to go six or seven games without scoring as they learn and get more experience and improve – they need the ready-made article right now.