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Real Madrid v Barcelona Preview

Real Madrid welcome Barcelona in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final at the Bernabeu tonight.

Football matches don’t come bigger than El Clasico, and even when it's just a simple domestic cup competition, Spain’s two most tetchy antagonists are sure to light some fireworks.

Barca and Real played to a 2-2 draw in the first Clasico of the season, early in the La Liga campaign.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both scored braces that day, and it seemed as if the season was going to be a neck and neck struggle between football’s most irresistible forces.

Things have gone pear-shaped for Real since then however, and they have all but surrendered their La Liga title to Barca.

Messi has also gone on to pip Ronaldo to the Balon d’Or award again, and shows no sign of loosening his grip on the mantle of best player in the world.

Just as CR7 seemed to signal Real’s emergence recently by scoring a hat-trick, Messi underscored Barca’s omnipotence by scoring four goals himself.

And so Los Blancos will be anxious to reassert themselves against Barca tonight, and to sharpen their confidence by causing the Blaugrana’s exit from the competition they won as consolation last season.

Barca will surely start as favourites however, even though they will be playing on Real’s daunting home patch.

They have only lost once in the league this season, have Messi at his best. They can also welcome back Gerard Pique from a ban and Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas, all of whom missed their recent crushing of Osasuna.

Real meanwhile, are a squad in disarray, amidst reports of a mutiny against manager Jose Mourinho.

They are also missing defender Pepe and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, both of whom are injured, as well as Angel Di Maria, Fabio Coentrao and Sergio Ramos, who are suspended.

Despite their shortcomings, Real have promised to play every remaining match this season as if it were a cup final. And so they will be determined to give their greatest rivals a painful run for their money tonight.

What is your Copa Clasico prediction?

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