Real Madrid v Barcelona special
Check out our big match special for tonight's Copa del Rey final between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
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Real Madrid and Barcelona meet tonight for the third time this season and the Copa del Rey is the prize on offer. The final of Spain's national cup competition is being played at the famous Mestalla in Valencia and the action gets started at 2030 BST, live on Sky Sports for television viewers in Great Britain. Both clubs are playing catch-up in the Primera Division title race with leaders Atletico Madrid three points clear of second-placed city rivals Real and four ahead of Barcelona. That allows tonight's silverware to take on even more significance as La Liga might be slipping out of reach. Real still have a Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich to get excited about but Barcelona's European adventure is over thanks to defeat in the last eight at the hands of Atletico. Barca coach Gerardo Martino is under massive pressure and expected to lose his job in the summer. A repeat of the 4-3 victory in El Clasico at the end of March might just cause a change of heart for the Nou Camp hierarchy. Game on...
The big news ahead of the final is the absence of Real Madrid talisman Cristiano Ronaldo. The forward misses out with a hamstring injury and the focus is on getting him fit for the first leg of the Champions League semi-final with Bayern Munich next week. Barcelona have problems in defence. Gerard Pique suffered a hairline fracture to his pelvis two weeks ago, Carles Puyol has a knee injury and Marc Bartra has been hit by a hamstrong problem. Boss Martino insists all three have a chance of playing but midfielder Sergio Busquets could well be forced to play at the back again.
Players to watch
Bale has scored five goals in his last five appearances and Real need more of the same tonight. Ronaldo is ruled out so much of the pressure will fall on the Welshman's shoulders and a famous display at the Mestalla will really start to pay back some of his hefty price tag. This is the night for the Tottenham star to shine.
Mascherano is the man certain to start in the heart of the Barca defence with the injury concerns surrounding three of his team-mates. The Argentina international has made 32 appearances so far this season with eight yellow cards to his name but no goals. Liverpool fans know all about the 29-year-old's tenacity and he needs to be solid as a rock for the trophy to return to the Nou Camp.
How they got to the final
- Last 32: Olimpic de Xativa, first leg (away) - drew 0-0, second leg (home) - won 2-0 (2-0 on aggregate)
- Last 16: Osasuna, first leg (home) - won 2-0, second leg (away) - won 2-0 (4-0 on aggregate)
- Quarter-finals: Espanyol, first leg (home) - won 1-0, second leg (away) - won 1-0 (2-0 on aggregate)
- Semi-finals: Atletico Madrid, first leg (home) - won 3-0, second leg (away) won 2-0 (5-0 on aggregate)
- Last 32: Cartagena, first leg (away) - won 4-1, second leg (home) - won 3-0 (7-1 on aggregate)
- Last 16: Getafe, first leg (home) - won 4-0, second leg (away) - won 2-0 (6-0 on aggregate)
- Quarter-finals: Levante, first leg (away) - won 4-1, second leg (home) - won 5-1 (9-2 on aggregate)
- Semi-finals: Real Sociedad, first leg (home) - won 2-0, second leg (away) - drew 1-1 (3-1 on aggregate)
- Almeria (home), Primera Division - won 4-0
- Borussia Dortmund (away), Champions League - lost 2-0 (won 3-2 on aggregate)
- Real Sociedad (away), Primera Division - won 4-0
- Borussia Dortmund (home), Champions League - won 3-0
- Rayo Vallecano (home), Primera Division - won 5-0
- Sevilla (away), Primera Division - lost 2-1
- Granada (away), Primera Division - lost 1-0
- Atletico Madrid (away), Champions League - lost 1-0 (defeated 2-1 on aggregate)
- Real Betis (home), Primera Division - won 3-1
- Atletico Madrid (home), Champions League - drew 1-1
- Espanyol (away), Primera Division - won 1-0
- Celta Vigo (home), Primera Division - won 3-0
What a game! It wasn't long ago that Barcelona gave their title challenge a boost with a 4-3 win in an incredible Clasico contest. There were stunning individual performances on both sides, three penalties, a red card, and somewhere amid it all, a Lionel Messi hat-trick. Karim Benzema and Angel Di Maria were in control of the first half, but both found themselves substituted in the second as Madrid moved into crisis management. Andres Iniesta put Barca ahead just four minutes in, but Benzema's brace turned it around prior to Messi making the match level before the break. Cristiano Ronaldo's penalty restored Madrid's lead but after Sergio Ramos brought down Neymar in the area, Real were down to 10 and two Messi penalties won it for the visitors.
Do you remember?
Fernando Hierro - Real Madrid
Hierro couldn't stop collecting silverware during his time at Real between 1989 and 2003 but the 1990 Copa del Rey final was not one of his greatest days. The defender was sent off in the first half of the clash against Barcelona at the Mestalla and that left Madrid at a severe disadvantage as goals from Guillermo Amor and Julio Salinas took the trophy to the Nou Camp. Fans in England will also recall the free-kick specialist spent the 2004-05 season with Bolton.
Diego Maradona - Barcelona
Of course you remember Maradona, everyone in the world does! But you might not know he was part of the Barcelona side that beat Real Madrid 2-1 in the 1983 Copa del Rey final. The Argentina legend was able to lift the trophy in Zaragoza thanks to goals from Victor Munoz and Marcos Alonso. Claiming the prize goes down as the highlight from his two injury-hit seasons with Barca.
There isn't much at all to choose between the sides with Sky Bet. Real Madrid are 13/8 to claim victory in normal time, Barcelona can be backed at 6/4 and the draw is available at 13/5. Real are 10/11 to lift the trophy - taking into account the possibility of extra-time and penalties - with Barca on offer at 4/5.
Sky Bet's Price Boosts are: Angel Di Maria to score first at 12/1 from 11/1, Andres Iniesta to score first at 14/1 from 12/1, Real Madrid to win 3-1 at 20/1 from 18/1 and Barcelona to win 3-1 at 18/1 from 16/1.
There are plenty of Big Match Specials available too: What about the 40/1 for Barcelona's star man Lionel Messi to be sent off? There's 12/1 on offer for Real defender Pepe to receive his marching orders or you might like the look of both sides to be awarded a penalty at 20/1.
The odds suggest there is nothing between the sides and I don't disagree with that judgment. The 13/5 for the draw at full-time makes big appeal and then you can sit back and enjoy the drama of extra-time and possibly penalties. Gareth Bale provides the interest for me in the first goalscorer market. He's 13/2 to open the scoring.