It’s that time of year again—El Clasico is back on our screens as Real Madrid take on Barcelona with the destiny of the Copa del Rey trophy on the line.
According to Real Madrid’s official website, Wednesday’s final will see the teams go head-to-head in a Copa del Rey final for the seventh time.
The two Spanish behemoths have three wins apiece in Copa finals against one another, with 2011’s triumph for Madrid the most recent of the six.
Venue: Estadio Mestalla, Valencia
Date: Wednesday, April 16
Time: 8:30 p.m. BST/5:30 p.m. ET
TV: SkySports 1 / ESPN
Old Scores To Settle
Barcelona will be looking to exact revenge for their dramatic Copa del Rey defeat back in 2011, where Cristiano Ronaldo scored the decisive goal in extra time to give Madrid their 19th Copa triumph.
Jose Mourinho was in charge of the Whites that night in Valencia, as a thrilling tie that was full of chances somehow went 90 minutes without a breakthrough.
There were 10 of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad from the previous summer’s tournament in action, but it was the Portugal striker Ronaldo that had the last laugh.
Angel di Maria’s pin-point cross was nodded home powerfully by the former Manchester United man after 103 minutes, as WeAreMadrid10 remembered last year:
Two years ago to the day, Real Madrid defeated Barcelona 1-0 in the 2011 Copa Del Rey Final, thanks to this goal! pic.twitter.com/zA1VUYq2Ry— WeAreMadrid10 (@WeAreMadrid10) April 20, 2013
Following the match, Ronaldo spoke of his joy at getting one over on the club’s rivals, as The Guardian reported:
“It's a very important title; we're going to enjoy it. Mourinho has done a good job. He's helped us a lot. Barca played very well but, as you know, the team who scores wins."
Barcelona went on to win the following season’s title with a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the final, but the 2011 loss will have them seeking redemption this time around.
La Liga Put On The Back Burner
With Atletico Madrid three points clear at the top of La Liga and showing no signs of faltering, the Spanish crown looks like resting on a head away from the Nou Camp or the Bernabeu for the first time since the 2003/04 season.
Anything can happen in the title race, of course, but both sets of fans will want to see their respective sides avoid the risk of their seasons petering out into nothingness.
According to SkySports, Barcelona have won just one of their last four matches in all competitions heading into Wednesday’s final in a worrying patch for the Catalan giants.
There’s been talk of Lionel Messi entering a crisis and Gerardo Martino losing his touch as the Barcelona manager, but everyone knows that the form book is torn up when an El Clasico takes centre stage.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid are three points adrift of their city rivals at the top of La Liga, with five generous fixtures to come on the quest to regain the title.
The Whites have scored 94 league goals this season, with Ronaldo helping himself to 28 of them, according to ESPN FC.
However, Ancelotti’s men will have to cope without their star man for Wednesday’s final, as BT Sports Panel revealed:
In spite of this, Madrid enter the Copa del Rey final in imperious form and are still yet to concede a goal in the competition—as SoccerWay’s results show.
While both teams will have nothing to lose on Wednesday, it’s hard to look beyond Ancelotti’s Madrid being crowned champions.
With or without Ronaldo, the Whites have enough firepower in their ranks to upset even the meanest of defences. With the unorthodox centre-back pairing of Alex Song and Javier Mascherano set to start for Barcelona in Valencia, it could be another sobering experience for the 26-time champions.
Prediction: Real Madrid 3-1 Barcelona