Despite being the greatest player on the planet at the moment and being in contention to be the greatest player ever, Lionel Messi is—at the end of the day—human, and this will be evident in the Copa del Rey.
It might not seem like it sometimes, but the Argentinian wizard is just like every other footballer on the planet in that he does have days where he isn't at his best.
Most of the time, when Messi isn't at his best, he still manages to do what most players do on a good day out—scoring goals and creating chances. Even when he isn't playing as effectively as some others, Messi often still ends up winning games due to Barcelona's all-round brilliance, and he still ends up putting the ball into the back of the net as part of that brilliance.
In this way, even Messi's bad days can be good days.
Yet sometimes—and it's a real rarity in world football this year—the 25-year-old star genuinely has bad days out where his production isn't as great as always.
There are games where Messi isn't receiving the plethora of touches that he normally does and isn't getting the goal-scoring chances that he so often creates. As a result, there are games when the Argentinian wizard doesn't score goals and Barca don't dominate.
It doesn't happen often, but it does happen.
Whether it's because the entire team has played poorly, Messi has played poorly or the team they played against was absolutely on fire, it still happens.
And it will happen once more in the Copa del Rey this week.
The Catalan club will take on archrivals Real Madrid at the Nou Camp with an away goal advantage under their belt, but still with plenty of work to do to progress.
They have been poor in their last two matches—losing to AC Milan and struggling against Sevilla—and have relied on Messi plenty of times to carry them through the year. Which isn't at all a bad plan, really, given the dominance and skill set that the 25-year-old usually has to work with.
But here, against a Madrid defense that will have key players back and healthy for the clash, expect Messi to face some very tough opposition to score.
Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos and Fabio Coentrao are all available for selection here (per Yahoo! Sports) and will provide great support at the back. Madrid have been exposed at times in defense lately, but with these new additions, they will be a much stronger outfit here.
And while Messi is known to rise to the occasion in El Classicos, he will face a much tougher time against this defensive unit than usually expected.
Jose Mourinho shut down Messi's goal-scoring chances when they played in the first leg of the Copa del Rey—something he'll no doubt look to replicate here.
Messi has scored seven goals in his 11 Copa del Rey matches, which is an impressive achievement. But for a man who has netted 38 goals in just 25 La Liga matches this year, and broke the record for most goals in a calendar year in 2012, it really isn't that impressive after all.
It might just be an inclination that the knockout tournament doesn't necessarily bring out the best in the Argentinian wizard—especially if he's coming up against much stronger defensive players who have prepared for his arrival and brilliance all weekend.
Which, against Messi, is a fairly bold claim to make.
What are your predictions for the Copa del Rey semifinals?
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