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FC Barcelona Vs. Real Madrid, Copa del Rey 2013: The Match That Could Define a Season

Real Madrid and Barcelona go face to face this Tuesday (21:00 CET) in a game that could define Real's 2012-2013 season. If los blancos manage to get through and play the Copa del Rey Final against either Atlético or Sevilla, the gained momentum could carry on for next week's crucial match at the Old Trafford against Manchester United. The opposite thing could happen if Barcelona holds on the advantage they have after the 1-1 draw at the Bernabéu.

Denis Doyle

The week of all weeks will start this Tuesday. Real Madrid will play Barcelona on the second leg of the Copa del Rey's Semifinals. Next Saturday, Messi, Iniesta and company will travel to the Santiago Bernabéu for their second match in La Liga, and los blancos will have to go to the Old Trafford two days after that to try to come back from their 1-1 draw at the Bernabéu against Manchester United.

It will be good for Jose Mourinho and the rest of the team to recover Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema. Even though both of them have been quite unsteady this season, they are potential starters, and it would be very hard to replace their skills. Alonso will surely play an important role against both Barcelona and United, but Benzema will probably need to fight for his spot with Gonzalo Higuaín.

Some journalists were speculating about the possibility of seeing Ronaldo or Kaká playing as the team's striker given Benzema and Higuaín's poor form, but Mourinho ruled this out in Monday. According to his own words, Jose Mourinho hasn't decided which team he will place on the pitch for the game against Barcelona.

Most of the time, I know which team I'll be playing with and I just don't want to tell you, but not today. I really don't know which team I'll be playing with tomorrow.

The Special One might be making up his mind about three different questions. Sergio Ramos appears to have secured one of the two spots in the center of Real Madrid's defense. Raphäel Varane and Pepe are still fighting for the other one. Pepe looked quite slow in Real Madrid's late win against Deportivo, and at the same time, Varane was brilliant in the first leg against Barcelona, but Pepe was such a big factor against Guardiola's Barcelona that it seems really hard to see him missing this Clásico. That's probably the first question Mourinho needs to answer.

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Xabi Alonso and Khedira will surely make the team's lineup. Thing is, Mourinho might want to have another midfielder in place with Luka Modric. That would only leave one spot for Di María, Kaká and Özil. The German playmaker would likely have the edge, but Di María has been a very reliable worker for Mourinho in the past. If the Portuguese coach decides to play with a 4-2-3-1 formation, only one player out of the trio would stay on the bench. Callejón is a useful player but it's not likely to see him starting in such an important game.

And finally, Mourinho will have to choose either Karim Benzema or Gonzalo Higuaín. Benzema has the skills but Higuaín usually works harder. Both of them would be a good threat off the bench, but Cristiano Ronaldo seems to play better with Benzema in the lineup, and that's a big factor for Mourinho to consider.

For Barcelona, David Villa, Alexis Sánchez and Cesc Fàbregas are still competing for one spot in the attacking part of the team. Goalkeeper Pinto should guard Barcelona's goal, as the coaching staff always let him play the Copa del Rey. Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Jordi Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and Pedrito are easy choices for Tito/Roura, but they game could change a lot depending on Barcelona's left winger.

One way or another, Real Madrid will surely need to score at least one goal in order to stand a chance of playing in the Copa del Rey Final. After that goal is reached, any draw or win would make los blancos advance (a 1-1 would send the game to the extra time and the penalty shoot-out eventually). It'll be interesting to see how Mourinho decides to play this game, as a Real Madrid-goal could be vital.

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