Real Madrid vs. Barcelona: Predictions for Top Stars in 2014 Copa Del Rey Final

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Real Madrid vs. Barcelona: Predictions for Top Stars in 2014 Copa Del Rey Final
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Barcelona will be desperate to turn around what has been a nightmare week for Gerardo Martino's side when they face Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final at Valencia's Mestalla stadium on Wednesday.

Knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, the Catalan giants then proceeded to lose to Granada on Saturday and lose pace with Diego Simeone's side at the top of La Liga. 

The Copa del Rey now represents Barcelona's best chance for significant silverware this season, but they will need to overcome their bitter rivals to claim victory.

Meanwhile, Madrid are through to the semi-finals of the Champions League where they will face Bayern Munich but are also playing catch-up on Atletico in the Spanish league.

They could receive a major boost if Carlo Ancelotti can field Cristiano Ronaldo, who was previously suspected to miss the game with a thigh injury, but may now return per Sky Sports (h/t Fox Sports).

Let's take a look at how the top stars of these two footballing behemoths could fare in Wednesday's final.

 

Lionel Messi

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The diminutive Argentinian superstar had a relatively poor day in Barcelona's 1-0 loss to Granada and was certainly not at his best in defeat to Atletico, as this stat via the BBC's John Bennett suggests:

And indeed there has been more criticism than usual of the 26-year-old this season with many suggesting he has not been at his best.

However, a quick look at the stats shows this up to be a slightly ridiculous idea. He has 25 goals from 26 La Liga appearances this season, per Squawkanot bad for a player out of form. 

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Three of those came in last month's El Clasico at the Bernabeu, which Barcelona won 4-3 in one of the great contests between the two sides.

Furthermore, of the 18 league goals Barcelona have scored in their last six matches, Messi has scored 10 of them, per BBC Sport.

Messi is a man for the big occasion, and a Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid certainly counts as that.

Expect him to be at his best and to grab at least one goal in Valencia. Real will have to be incredibly wary of him to avoid being turned over as they were when the two last faced each other.

 

Neymar

Daniel Tejedor

The 22-year-old Brazilian has yet to really live up to the hype since arriving in Spain from Santos last summer.

He has struggled this season and has scored nine goals in 25 league appearances, per Squawka, with only three La Liga goals in this calendar year, per BBC Sport.

And in Barcelona's 4-3 victory last moth over Ancelotti's side, he seemed to be slightly overwhelmed, with this Squwka stat illustrating he was not anywhere near his best that day:

He was substituted with 20 minutes remaining on that occasion, and it would not be at all surprising if he failed to make a significant impact on Wednesday's final.

Certainly the Brazilian is a fine talent and has the potential to be hugely valuable to Barcelona on big occasions in years to come.

But do not expect him to prove to be the match-winner in Valencia. 

 

Gareth Bale

Andres Kudacki

In Ronaldo's potential absence it will fall to former Tottenham star Gareth Bale to contribute the bulldozing runs and inch-perfect free-kicks.

Like Neymar, this is his first season of Spanish football and the Welshman has acquitted himself rather well so far with 15 league goals in 25 appearances, per Squawka, one of which came in Los Blancos' 4-0 defeat of Almeria on Saturday.

He has 19 goals in all competitions and has also provided assists on a regular basis, per WhoScored:

However, he was also relatively anonymous in last month's El Clasico with Agence France-Presse's Tom Williams reporting L'Equipe's verdict on the 24-year-old on that occasion:

But if Ronaldo is not on the pitch, Bale will be given greater responsibility and greater purpose, which could galvanise him into giving a strong performance.

Expect him to respond well to this added pressure and put in a real shift on the night. 

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