Three classics in a month, two Madrid-Barça in four days, the eighth in the Champions League, a derby from Madrid in the Metropolitan and Barca visit in San Mamés and Pizjuán. The match yesterday of the two great in the semifinals of the Cup -Betis and Valencia play the other place in the final of the Villamarín on May 25- has made a Himalayan calendar for the giants of Spanish football. Without pause since this next Wednesday at 9:00 pm, the first leg will take place at Camp Nou.
"I see an even tie," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said yesterday. "In LaLiga, they came at a difficult moment in the mood, but now they are better, with confidence and getting results, maybe they are in one of the best moments of the season." The classic double has altered the plans of Barcelona, which had not thought to give so much relevance to the Cup -to avoid accusing the overload of minutes in Europe or in domestic competition-, but to which the comeback against Sevilla (6-1) and the pairing with Madrid have changed the look towards the tournament.
Valverde's thesis on the response capacity of his players stands on its own. You just have to look at the league gambles against the three immediate persecutors in the table of this course and the previous one; against Madrid – without counting the Supercopa of Spain of the previous year, just landed Valverde and with the suitcases in hand Neymar – adds two wins and one draw; against Sevilla, two victories and the current success of the cup-bearers; against Atletico he remains in a joy and two tables; and against Valencia (fourth in last season), he signed three wins and one draw, including the Cup pass.
With 30 awards, seven more than Athletic, second in the laurel standings, Barça has ruled with iron fists the last editions of the Cup, to the point that it has been crowned in the last four. What makes him add 23 consecutive eliminatory without losing (the last bump was given to the whites in the semifinals of 2013), even if it fell in the final of 2014, again against Madrid. "It's a great elimination, with two big games coming at a time when both teams are immersed in the fight for LaLiga and we are also going to start the Champions League in a few weeks …", reflected Valverde, who added yesterday a important setback: his starting goalkeeper in the Cup, Cillessen, will be out six weeks for a muscle break in the right soleus. "The calendar is already overloaded by itself and I know that these games have a special wear and tear, it's brutal, the calendar is very strong," added Valverde.
The confrontation in the semifinals of the Cup recalls the tension between 2010 and 2014. The whim of chance in Cup and Champions multiplied the number of appointments between the two: four between April and May 2011, two in January 2012 and another three in little more than a month in 2013. A period of excessive tension, with José Mourinho maximizing hostility from Chamartín and Pep Guardiola first and Tito Vilanova later at the controls at the Camp Nou, which opened and closed on the same stage and the same way: two final coperas in Mestalla and two uncorking for Real.
THE NEXT MONTH CALENDAR
The wheel returns now. Drawn again by the Cup, competition in which Solari premiered and caught some of the secondary already elevated to the category of protagonists like Llorente, Lucas and Vinicius, Madrid has before it a test of fire. To the relief of Solari, the whites will confront him with the empty infirmary at the beginning and with the team reaching their best version of the game and effectiveness of the season.
Wednesday's clash at the Camp Nou will be followed by the league derby at Wanda on Saturday. At 10 points of the lead, a trip to Atlético almost ended any minimal possibility of fighting for the title. From the Cup to LaLiga, and from LaLiga to the Champions, their priority challenge. Another year more detached from the league competition at the first exchange, Europe is again presented as an obligation to this Madrid, which will open the knockout round against Ajax in Amsterdam only seven days after visiting Barcelona.
After the calendar will give a minimum truce to the guys of Solari. They will return to the Bernabéu on February 17 to face Girona and, without any compromises during the week, will visit Levante before closing the Cup and Champions crosses with two consecutive matches against Barcelona at Chamartín. The first, the return of the semifinals coperas, on February 27; the second, this one from LaLiga, will be three days later. After the carousel of classics, the visit of Ajax will put the final point to everything or nothing that faces Madrid.