Barcelona to play Real Madrid in Copa del Rey semifinals

              Real Madrid's Benzema, second left, celebrates with teammates after scoring during a Spanish Copa del Rey soccer match between Girona and Real Madrid at the Montilivi stadium in Girona, Spain, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

MADRID (AP) — Barcelona and Real Madrid will play each other three times in less than a month after being drawn Friday to meet in the Copa del Rey semifinals.

The first leg will be on Wednesday in Barcelona, with the return match in Madrid on Feb. 27, just before their Spanish league game at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on March 3.

The matchup between the rivals means both sides will face several tough games in a short span.

Three days after the first leg at Camp Nou, Madrid plays at Atletico Madrid in the Spanish league. Four days after that, Madrid travels to the Netherlands to face Ajax in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Barcelona, meanwhile, will face matches at Lyon in the Champions League, followed by a visit to Sevilla in the league.

“It’s true that we will have a calendar loaded with intense and important matches, but we won’t deny that these matches are attractive for fans and for us alike,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “It will be a great semifinal.”

Barcelona routed Madrid 5-1 at the Camp Nou in October in the teams’ first league game this season.

Madrid has improved in recent weeks and is on a four-game winning streak.

The Spanish powerhouses have met 20 times in the Copa del Rey, with 10 wins for each team. Their last meeting was in 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.

Two-time champion Real Betis and seven-time winner Valencia will play in the other semifinal, also beginning next week.

The final will be on May 25 at Benito Villamarin Stadium in Seville, a 61,000-capacity venue that is home to Betis.