Real Madrid take on Barcelona in Wednesday's Copa del Rey final, an occasion that is sure to captivate fans and neutrals across the globe.
Carlo Ancelotti's men remain in the hunt for their first treble, although La Liga success appears distant in the current situation. Los Blancos are three points behind local rivals Atletico Madrid and have a Champions League semi-final tie with Bayern Munich to negotiate, signalling the Spanish Cup is their best chance of landing silverware.
For Barcelona, it's pretty much their only chance of adding to a bustling trophy cabinet. Gerardo Martino's men are out of Europe and four points adrift in the title race, underlining the importance of the next Clasico clash.
Here, we take a look at the details behind the match, as well as key stats and numbers to whet your appetite.
When: Wednesday, April 16 at 8:30 p.m. BST/3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Mestalla Stadium, Valencia, Spain
Real Madrid vs. Barcelona: Key Stats Ahead of Copa del Rey Clash
Let's kick things off with a simple form guide spanning each team's last five matches:
|Real Madrid||RM 5-0 Rayo Vallecano, RM 3-0 Dortmund, Real Sociedad 0-4 RM, Dortmund 2-0 RM, RM 4-0 Almeria||WWWLW|
|Barcelona||Espanyol 0-1 FCB, FCB 1-1 Atletico Madrid, FCB 3-1 Real Betis, Atletico Madrid 1-0 FCB, Granada 1-0 FCB||WDWLL|
The big news ahead of this tie is that Cristiano Ronaldo isn't going to feature, reported by The Guardian. Fortunately for Real, his absence has barely impacted games this season, per OptaJose:
6 - Real Madrid have won their six La Liga games this season without Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch. Absence— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 12, 2014
Still, Ronaldo notched a goal during last month's 4-3 loss to Real's fierce rivals. This year's Ballon d'Or winner won't have the opportunity to exploit a Blaugrana defence that will be missing Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Marc Bartra, noted by Transfermarkt.com. With Victor Valdes remaining on the sidelines, Ronaldo's run of 13 goals in his last 10 games isn't destined to be extended, per WhoScored.com.
Luckily for Barcelona, they can still call upon the talents of Lionel Messi to get them through. The Argentinian has produced 11 goals in 10 appearances but hasn't scored in his last two matches.
Both teams have completed seven ties on their way to the final. Interestingly, Barcelona have scored 12 more goals than their upcoming opponents, who are yet to concede in the competition despite allowing 23 more shots on goal. Opta posted an official graph on FCB's website, found via @Realmadridplace on Twitter:
Infograph: Real Madrid and Barcelona in this season's Copa del Rey pic.twitter.com/x4Qpyo4avr— SB (@Realmadridplace) April 14, 2014
While Real are yet to have their rearguard penetrated, Messi's Clasico record is something to worry about. His hat-trick during the recent Bernabeu clash underlines a player who is ready to spring into action at any moment. Real are his favourite team to play against, highlighted by Messistats:
Messi's favourite victims with Barcelona: - REAL MADRID (21 goals/27 games) - Atletico (20/21) - Osasuna (19/17) - Sevilla (18/21)— MESSISTATS (@MessiStats) April 15, 2014
If March's seven-goal thriller didn't indicate as much, we can expect plenty of goals at the Mestalla. While Real's trio of Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale ensure Ancelotti's team are Europe's top scorers, a supposedly misfiring Barca are just two strikes behind, per Squawka:
Top scoring teams in Europe’s top 5 leagues 2013/14 season: Real Madrid (94), Liverpool (93), Barcelona (92), Man City (86) & B.Munich (82).— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 14, 2014
To round things off, German Pizarro and Elena Pou of Spanish-language newspaper Marca posted an interesting comparison of badges from across the years. Both teams have stuck to designs similar to what we see today since around the 1920s, shaping the modern image of Spain's two most revered teams.
Such an article serves as the perfect reminder that history is on offer during Wednesday's encounter. Both teams have real problems to overcome if they are to lift the famous trophy and will have to battle extreme pressure to come out on top, but for the victors, a note in the folklore of their club is gained.
The Copa del Rey final is likely to be decided on a moment of individual magic, a mistake or moment of fortune. If previous Clasicos have taught us anything, expect the unexpected.