Messi is set to play Real Madrid once again
It's that wonderful time of the year again. Real Madrid and Barcelona are set to square off. This time, the clubs will clash in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals.
It's hard to predict exactly what will go down in El Clásico (even though Tre' Atkinson totally did), but at least we definitely know what the defining factors of the match will be.
Here are the five most interesting plot lines as we get prepared for the clash of titans.
Who will start under Real Madrid's pipes?
No matter how often it happens, it's always weird to see Real Madrid's net without Iker Casillas in front of it. The goalie is sidelined for two to three months and will not be present in el Clásico.
The question is, then, who in the world will fill Casillas' shoes this time?
Antonio Adan was the chosen goalkeeper in Real Madrid's last match, but that might not be the case anymore as Mourinho might give the nod to the more experienced Diego Lopez.
Either way, whoever ends up under the pipes for Los Blancos will have to earn his money's worth in a day they will be bombarded by the likes of Fábregas, Iniesta, Pedro and a little guy you may or may not have heard of called Lionel Messi.
David Villa's performance will be crucial
It is highly unlikely that David Villa will start the game, even if he did get the starting spot in Barcelona's last game. However, he can see some minutes on the pitch after the second half.
Villa is just coming off a very serious injury and has been linked to several transfer deals in the previous months. However, Barcelona have said they have no interest in dealing the striker.
What better way to shut up all rumors once and for all with a good display against Barcelona's biggest rival?
Villa already received praise for his performance against Osasuna, even if he failed to score a goal. Another performance like this one and any sort of rumor will be gone like the wind.
Marcelo has to prove his worth again
Marcelo suffered an injury in October 2012 that sidelined him for three months. He finally saw the pitch again on January 15 against Valencia, but was less than impressive and was promptly substituted in the 46th minute.
It will be up to Mourinho to decide whether Marcelo plays at all in el Clásico, as Arbeloa will likely get the starting nod.
However, if Marcelo does get in, it will be interesting to see if he can make a comeback against Los Blancos' biggest rivals.
Some good 15 minutes might be enough to bring the Brazilian back to Real Madrid's rotation.
Without Pepe, who will lead Real Madrid's back four?
Iker Casillas is not the only Madrileño set to miss the Spanish clash. Real Madrid will also have to deal with the absences of Pepe, Sergio Ramos and Fabio Coentrão. That means somebody else will have to step up and stop one of the best offensive teams in the world.
It will probably be up to Essien, Varane, Albiol and Arbeloa to command the back. None of them give Real Madrid fans much confidence, and Essien is not even used to playing the right-back position.
The most important aspect of this match is whether they can figure out a way to play together—and stop the arsenal of offensive weapons in Barcelona's squad.
"We meet again"
Isn't it fun when the two best players in the world meet each other on the pitch? You can bet all eyes will be on Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo once the ball gets rolling in the Santiago Bernabeu.
Cristiano Ronaldo's last game was pretty impressive, as the Portuguese player managed to score a hat-trick in a 4-0 win against Getafe.
However, it sometimes seems that Messi is only out to outperform his Real Madrid rival in any way, as he scored a mind-boggling four goals in Barcelona's win against Osasuna.
While it is unlikely that either player will score more than two goals in this titans' clash, you can bet all the money in the world at least one of them will score. This game's end result might as well come down to which player is in better form that day.
Needless to say, you better tune in to watch el Clásico.