MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 23: Daniel Carvajal of Real Madrid closes down Neymar of Barcelona during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona at the Bernabeu on March 23, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo : (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images))
Barcelona and Real Madrid will play in a week's time in the Copa del Rey final but there are few unique storylines heading into the tie. Here is a look at some of those unique angles.
1. Can Real Madrid overcome slump in big games?
Los Blancos are in a bit of a rut at the moment. Despite being favorites to win almost every trophy this year, the team has started look like less of a contender in recent weeks. The start of the slump unsurprisingly came after losing at home against Barcelona and has extended up until this week when the side lost 2-0 against Borussia Dortmund. Now Madrid has lost three of its last six in all competitions and looks like a side incapable of playing in big games. The team lost twice against Barcelona this year and the most recent game was considered a huge turning point in the season. A win all but seals a Spanish league title for Madrid while a loss changes the race. The latter took place and now Madrid sits in third place. Madrid also failed to win against Atletico Madrid in the Spanish League; though the team did beat its derby rivals in the semis of the Copa del Rey. Other losses in big games include a road defeat against Sevilla and the loss against Dortmund. Instead of exorcising its demons from last year, Madrid made it hard for themselves by losing 2-0 and nearly blowing a 3-0 aggregate lead. This Cup final is huge for the team's confidence moving forward.
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2. Is Barcelona going to go "trophiless" in 2013-14?
Los Cules could be undergoing their worst season in years as they will have no chance at the Champions League and could still lose the Spanish League unless they win their remaining games. This Cup final may actually be the only trophy the team gets in 2013-14 and it would be an apt consolation in an underwhelming year. That they can win this trophy may motivate the side to put up a stellar performance.
3. Messi vs...?
Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo looks unlikely to play in this meeting, taking away one of the big attractions from the Clasico. That said it will be interesting to see if Messi actually makes a statement without needs to go to the penalty spot. The superstar has been racking goals in recent weeks, but a majority of them have come from the penalty box. On the pitch, his influence has been far more muted. His performance on Wednesday against Atletico had much to be desire. He has always saved his best for these showdowns and this could bring out the best in the superstar.
4. Managers Gerardo Martino vs. Carlo Ancelotti
The first game featured a major gaffe from Ancelotti in which he put Sergio Ramos out of position and utilized and out-of-form Gareth Bale. In the second game he adapted better but ultimately lost the game. Now he has to figure out a game plan to win without Ronaldo. Martino has not been particularly good form a strategic standpoint in either Clasico (or most of the year for that matter), but has managed to pull off wins in both matches against Madrid. Will he make it three in arguably the biggest Clasico of the year?