MADRID, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Wednesday sees Real Madrid entertain FC Barcelona in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Games between Real Madrid and Barca are becoming a regular occurrence in Spain these days, partly because they are the two best sides in Spain if not in Europe and the law of averages thus dictates they will meet each other, not just in the BBVA Primera Liga, but also in the Copa del Rey, the Spanish Supercup and perhaps even in the Champions League on a regular basis.
That law has been born out of late with the two teams going head to head six times last season, while this is the fourth meeting out of at least six (depending on what happens in Europe) this campaign.
While Barca came out on top overall last season, knocking Madrid out of the quarter-finals of the Cup and winning the Spanish Supercup, this season the balance is titled slightly Madrid's way, given that they drew 2-2 in the Camp Nou in the league and won the Supercup on away goals.
Balancing that out of course is the fact that Barca are running away with the league title with Madrid trailing a humiliating 15 points in their wake. That 15 point gap will be a factor in the tie given that Madrid know their only options for silverware this season are in the cup and Champions League and Jose Mourinho's side will be extra motivated for the game.
Mourinho rested midfielders Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira for his side's 4-0 win at home to Getafe on Sunday and both will start against Barca, although he does have problems in defense with Pepe still injured and Fabio Coentrao and Sergio Ramos suspended.
There is also a doubt over who will play in goal instead of Iker Casillas, who is out for two months with a broken bone in his hand. Antonio Adan played in the league, but Diego Lopez, who returned to the club from Sevilla on Saturday, also has options.
Given that Barcelona will start with habitual cup keeper, Jose Pinto, in goal this will be the first Clasico for 10 years in which neither Casillas not Victor Valdes have played.
Barca will be at full strength with both Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabrigas also back after resting at the weekend.
Meanwhile it is strikers Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who are likely to capture the headlines. The top two players in the world warmed up for the game in traditional fashion with Messi scoring four goals against Osasuna and Ronaldo netting a hat-trick against Getafe. Neither shows any sign of their form dropping away this season but despite their brilliance with so much talent on the pitch and with every foul and refereeing decision analyzed in depth, it is easy to see why this tie continues to fascinate.