Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (C) celebrates after scoring a goal as Barcelona's Lionel Messi (L) and Xavi Hernandez react during their Spanish Super Cup second leg soccer match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid August 29, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Juan Medina (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER))
The first Clasico of 2013 is upon us as Real Madrid faces off against Barcelona in the first leg of the 2013 Copa del Rey semi-finals.
Both squads are entering the matchup in top form. Barcelona has won two straight after the loss to Real Sociedad. In their most recent defeat of Osasuna Lionel Messi exploded for four goals and now leads the league with 33.
In Copa del Rey matches this season, Barça has won five of six and Messi has tallied four times. Pinto is expected to perform in goal instead of Victor Valdes on Wednesday and the team should be at full strength throughout its lineup.
Real Madrid will be without a plethora of key players heading into Wednesday's bout. The team will be without Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Angel Di Maria and Fabio Coentrao; all are regular starters and keys to this team's success. Casillas' broken hand has paved the way for newly acquired Diego Lopez to get his first start Madrid in the Clasico. The loss of Ramos, Pepe, and Coentrao creates a precarious situation for Madrid's defense and this could be the major difference in this match.
Fortunately, Cristiano Ronaldo is in top form with 10 goals in 2013 (one more than Messi) and he is coming off a dominating performance against Getafe in which he scored a treble.
Start Time: 3 PM EST
TV Info: beIN Sport USA
Prediction: Barcelona is at full strength and should pick apart the Madrid defense. 3-1 Barcelona.
***UPDATE: 0-0 At Half-time. Fast paced up and down game with lots of chances for both sides. Barcelona's goalie Pinto has not been coming out too much and Carles Puyol has been hanging back as well.
*** Barcelona leads 1-0 off a goal from Fabregas. Madrid clearing attempt is aborted and Fabregas is found alone behind Xabi Alonso.