In the third edition of the El Classico marathon, Real Madrid host Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal in what promises to be an enthralling contest.
Madrid have got the better of Barcelona so far, having won the Copa Del Rey final and tied the league cup fixture with ten men. However, with the stakes as high as a place in the Champions League final, it'll be safe to say that the real battle starts here.
Barcelona faced a Madrid side who were content with sitting at the back and soaking the pressure, or to use Madrid manager Jose Mourinho's famous words parked the bus. However, with away goals coming into the fray, Madrid need to score more. They have just two goals in their last three games against Barcelona, one of which came from the spot. The Catalans, on the other hand, handed Madrid a drubbing of 5-0 at the Nou Camp earlier in the season when the whites looked to play Barca with their own game.
It may not be sensible to go as far as choosing the favourites in this fixture, but it is impossible to agree with Catalan coach Pep Guardiola who claimed his side were the underdogs in the tie after recent results. Barcelona are by far the best side in World football at the moment. But if anyone can stop them, it is Mourinho's Madrid.
So tonight brings forth another round of battles all over the field, the highlight of course being - Lionel Messi Vs Cristiano Ronaldo. Though they will rarely come face to face on the field, the two have the unique ability to change the face of the game and are rightly regarded as the two best players in the planet at the moment. How they play will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this tie.
Looking past the highlight, the fixture is laced with other enticing battles - Xavi Vs Xabi Alonso, Puyol (if he is fit) Vs Gonzalo Higuain, David Villa Vs Pepe and, of course, Guardiola Vs Mourinho.
Though the tie will not let off in full flow until the second leg, this one should have enough to entertain even a battalion of emotionless icemen!
Team News -
Barcelona will be significantly weakened by the absence of midfielder Andres Iniesta who has a calf strain. The Catalans will also be without left-backs Eric Abidal and Maxwell while Adriano is a doubt. Mourinho will therefore look to exploit that area.
Madrid have defensive concerns of their own though. Centre back Ricardo Carvalho is suspended while defensive-midfielder Sami Khedira is injured.
Away goals will be vital. Therefore, Barca to attack, while Madrid will strike on the counter. A 1-1 draw looks likely with the Catalans happy to take the away goal to Nou Camp.