What: Spanish Copa del Rey Final
Who: Barcelona vs Real Madrid
When: Wednesday 16th April, 2014, at 20:30 UK Time
Where: Mestalla, Valencia, Spain

Last Chance of Silverware

Having slipped at the weekend against Granada and seen their Champions League hopes ended thanks to Atletico Madrid, the Copa del Rey could very well be Barcelona’s last possible chance of silverware this season, in what has been a generally disappointing term for the Blaugrana. 

Eager to make amends with their fans following two successive defeats – in which they have failed to find the net – Barcelona will be relishing the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo will miss this match as the result of an injury. However, Real Madrid were the victors the last time the two teams met at this stage in 2011, and Gerardo Martino will be hoping that history does not repeat itself at the Mestalla.

Barcelona will want their fans’ support as they prepare to for this all-important clash, and Carles Puyol urged the club’s faithful to get behind the team in order for them to forget their recent results and turn their fortunes around.

“It is a blow being eliminated from the Champions League and the next game is difficult, but we have a final against our greatest rivals and I would like to tell the fans that we will give our all and that together, everything will be easier”, declared the club skipper.

True Test

Despite having reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and being just three points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid have failed to win against the league leaders or Barcelona themselves at any point during this league term, prompting critics to highlight Los Blancos’ inability to perform against the big sides. The upcoming games against Barcelona and more importantly, Bayern Munich in the Champions League, will be the real litmus test for Carlo Ancelotti’s men as they assess just how powerful they really are.

Los Merengues earned a memorable victory over Barcelona in the 2011 Copa del Rey final – ironically played at the Mestalla as well – but Ancelotti believes that his result will not influence proceedings when both sides take to the pitch three years later. “I don’t think that there will be a psychological advantage for what happened in the past. The present is a complicated game for both Barcelona and Real Madrid. We have to play well, with excitement, motivation and with a lot of concentration to try and win it", commented the decorated tactician.
Real Madrid miss Cristiano Ronaldo for this game, as the Portugal man nurses a leg injury. In his absence, they recorded 4-0 wins over Almeria and Real Sociedad, but fell 2-0 to Borussia Dortmund in Germany.

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Recent form

Barcelona 3-1 Real Betis (05/04; La Liga)
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Barcelona (09/04; Champions League)
Granada 1-0 Barcelona (12/04; La Liga)

Real Madrid:
Real Sociedad 0-4 Real Madrid (05/04; La Liga)
Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Real Madrid (08/04; Champions League)
Real Madrid 4-0 Almeria (12/04; La Liga)

Key absences

Barcelona: Gerard Pique; Victor Valdes; Isaac Cuenca; Jonathan dos Santos; Marc Bartra

Real Madrid: Jese; Alvaro Arbeloa; Sami Khedira; Marcelo; Cristiano Ronaldo; Sergio Ramos (doubt)

Players to watch

Barcelona – Lionel Messi: The Argentine was quiet in the games against Granada and Atletico Madrid, and fans will be hoping that he will come to life when taking to the field against Los Blancos. Already the highest scorer in Clasico history, he will want to increase his tally in the final.

Real Madrid – Gareth Bale: With Ronaldo missing now is Bale’s chance to prove to the world that he can fill his team-mate’s shoes. So far, his maiden season at Real Madrid has not reflected his high record transfer fee. Taking the game by the horns will be the perfect opportunity for him to show that he can rise to the occasion.

Match Prediction

It will be interesting to see how Los Merengues will function in Ronaldo’s absence. The forward has often been the catalyst behind his team’s attacking surge, and his side will rue their luck in his absence. It will be difficult for Real Madrid to overcome Barcelona without the Ballon d’Or holder and as such, expect the spoils to go to the Catalans. Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid.

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