Barcelona and Real Madrid square up in Kings Cup

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Updated: January 30, 2013

Another fascinating duel between bitter rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid kicks off tonight at the Santiago Bernabeu, in the semifinal first leg of the Kings Cup.

The two best players in the world, Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, will again be in the spotlight, however its difficult to ignore the class and quality of the 20 other players that will front this marvelous spectacle.

Barcelona have been in imperious form in the league this season with only 1 loss in their first 21 games, finding the net on no fewer than 71 occasions, a stunning goal ratio of more than 3 per game, Messi leading the way with almost half of those, 33 to be exact and 44 in all this season. The Argentine superstar is coming into the game off the back of a 4 goal contribution on the weekend and has also scored in his last 16 starts, including 11 consecutive in the league, a new record. Another record pending for Messi is the fact that he has scored on 17 occasions against Madrid, 1 shy of Alfredo Di Stefano’s record.

La Liga champions Real Madrid, have endured a torrid time in the league to date and are currently sitting in third, 15 points behind their rivals, with 4 losses and 4 draws highlighting this difference.  Ronaldo will want to produce the goods as he currently lies 12 goals shy of Messi in the scoring charts on 21, 30 in all competitions. Real have shown signs of a resurgence in the last month with the Portuguese captain scoring 10 goals including 2 hat-tricks.

This will be the third straight year that Barcelona and Madrid meet in the Copa del Rey. Madrid beat Barcelona in the 2011 final, while Barcelona knocked Madrid out of the quarterfinals last season on their way to claiming a record 26th title. The last time the two European powerhouses played in October it ended in a 2-2 league draw as Messi and Ronaldo each scoring twice.

Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas will miss his first match against Barcelona since 2002 with a broken left hand, while Jose Mourinho will also be without defenders Sergio Ramos and Fabio Coentrao and forward Angel Di Maria because of suspension, while defender Pepe is out injured. With such big holes in the back for Madrid, Messi, Xavi and Iniesta should find life a tad easier.

In the other semifinal Athletico Madrid host Sevilla tomorrow night at the Vicente Calderon Stadium. The hosts have yet to be beaten at home this year in the league, however still wait on the fitness of brilliant Columbian front man Radamel Falcao.