Madrid, Jan 17 (IANS) All of Spain will be glued to their seats as Real Madrid and Barcelona play each other in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal Wednesday.
The meeting in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium will be the eighth time the two teams have met since April. That 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu began a run of matches which saw Madrid defeat Barcelona 1-0 after injury time in the final of the Copa del Rey 2010-11.
Barca then had their revenge by knocking Madrid out of the semi-finals at the Champions League. The Catalans also defeated their arch rivals over two games in the Spanish Supercup in August and won 3-1 at the Bernabeu in the Spanish Primera Liga in early December.
Indeed the Cup win last season is the only time Jose Mourinho’s men has been able to get the better of Pep Guardiola coached Barca unit.
Madrid go into the game with a five point lead in the Prmiera Liga and there are once again hopes they can end their Barca jinx.
Mourinho will have to deal with injuries and suspensions to its players. The Portuguese will have to make a decision on who will start as the right-back with Alvaro Arbeloa suspended. Lassana Diarra would be favourite, but with Sami Khedira sidelined with an ankle injury, Diarra could be needed in the midfield.
There are also questions over the fitness of Brazilian centre-back Pepe, who suffered a knock in Saturday’s win in Mallorca.
Mourinho could be tempted to play Raul Albiol in central defense and move Sergio Ramos back to the full-back position.
Barcelona are without Ibrahima Affelay, David Villa and Andreu Fontas, who are all out for the season with injuries, while diminutive forward Pedro Rodriguez misses the first leg with a strained hamstring.
Guardiola will also put his faith in reserve goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto instead of regular first choice, Victor Valdes. Pinto has usually played in the Copa del Rey, but the fact that he was in goal for last season’s cup final defeat has caused some concern among Barca fans.
Although most of Spain will be focussed on the Clasico, Wednesday sees another fascinating Cup game as Athletic Club Bilbao entertain Mallorca in front of a packed house.
Mallorca are coached by former Athletic boss Joaquin Caparros, who put together the backbone of the current Athletic team over the last four seasons. He can be assured of a good reception from a packed San Mames Stadium.