Key Questions for Barcelona and Real Ahead of Copa Del Rey Final
After the last Clasico ended in a seven-goal split favouring Barca, Real will be baying for blood and vengeance to appease their expectant fans.
How will los Blancos cope without Cristiano Ronaldo, who will replace him and what state is la Blaugrana's defence in? These key questions, and more, are posed.
Will Carles Puyol Make a Return?
According to AS (via Football Espana), Carles Puyol has made himself available to face Real Madrid on Wednesday night.
He'll need to come through a late fitness test in order to play and won't be remotely close to full match sharpness come kickoff.
If Not, Can a Marc Bartra-Javier Mascherano Partnership Hold Steady?
If neither Carles Puyol nor Gerard Pique come through their fitness test, Barcelona will be down to the bare bones in central defence.
Gerardo Martino will be left with the prospect of pairing Marc Bartra and Javier Mascherano together.
The weaknesses here are easy to find.
Bartra has his ups and downs. He's a young player, and he was shown up a little by clever movement against Atletico Madrid.
Meanwhile, for all his experience, Mascherano has always lacked height. That could spell trouble when lining up without Pique or Puyol.
How Will Real Madrid Replace Cristiano Ronaldo?
Cristiano Ronaldo will miss the Copa del Rey final through injury, Real Madrid have confirmed.
Usually, Jese would be a shoo-in to replace him on the left side opposite Gareth Bale. However, his knee injury ensures he will miss the rest of the campaign.
For Carlo Ancelotti, it's a straight choice of either Isco from the left or Angel Di Maria moving to the wing.
Should the latter move out, Isco is the No. 1 contender to take his berth in central midfield.
It's hardly a nightmare situation given the depth Real Madrid boast, but losing the best player in the world (on this season's form) is never good.
Is This Barcelona's Last Chance at Silverware This Season?
Barcelona are not expected to last in the La Liga title race, they're out of the Champions League and Cules are accepting their reign of dominance in world football is sliding.
For Gerardo Martino, Wednesday's final is probably his last shot at silverware for the current season. What's more, with Cristiano Ronaldo out, there's not been a better chance to topple Real Madrid this year.
Barca were able to triumph over los Blancos earlier in the season in La Liga. With Neymar and Lionel Messi both set to play once again, fans will be hopeful they can glean at least one trophy from their "transitional" season.
Could a Trophy Win Provide Title Impetus?
Atletico Madrid are favourites to win La Liga by virtue of them being top with five games to go.
Real Madrid are three behind and Barcelona four, so there's still plenty of room for each of the three clubs to slip up in their remaining games.
Winning the Copa del Rey could prove a massive shot in the arm for either cub, spurring them on to renewed domestic success, while Atletico's thinning squad handles Champions League semifinal rigours.
On the contrary, a loss—particularly for Real Madrid—could pave the way for a dramatic late-season collapse.