5 things to know about the Copa del Rey

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 20, 2014 at 7:38 am •  Published: January 20, 2014
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MADRID (AP) — The Copa del Rey is back this week, and Barcelona will travel to Levante for the second time in three days.

The Spanish league leaders were held to a 1-1 draw at Levante on Sunday, but now play in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals.

Also, Real Madrid will visit Espanyol for the first leg.

Here are five things to know about this week's matches:

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MESSI STEPS UP

After struggling with injuries for two months, Lionel Messi is back just in time to take up the slack as Brazil striker Neymar is sidelined with a tendon strain in his ankle.

Barcelona had to come from behind to draw on Sunday, dropping points at mid-table Levante.

Messi forced a fine save from Levante goalkeeper Keylor Navas, but the team lacked the inspiration to break down its opponent's tight defensive strategy.

With Barcelona still adjusting to coach Gerardo Martino's tactics, it will be up to Messi to step up and resolve what the coach has called a lack of fortune in front of goal.

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RONALDO'S AUTHORITY

While Barcelona stumbled, Real Madrid routed last-place Real Betis 5-0 on Saturday, elevating the Spanish powerhouse to third place with 50 points, one behind Barcelona and Atletico.

After thundering in a goal past Betis goalkeeper Stephan Andersen from the edge of the area, Cristiano Ronaldo stepped back to hand over the task of taking a free kick to Gareth Bale. The Welshman then bent it in past the hapless Andersen.

Having won this year's Ballon d'Or, Ronaldo exuded confidence and was a permanent, menacing presence in attack, characteristics that will come in handy when facing Barcelona-based Espanyol.

"We are now where we wanted to be from the beginning," Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said.



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