BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Out of the Champions League and stumbling in Spain, Barcelona faces Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final in likely its best chance to win some silverware this season.
Madrid will be without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, while Barcelona arrives with its defense in tatters and Lionel Messi questioned for his recent dip in form.
Barcelona will be aiming to add to its record 26 cup titles. Madrid is third on the all-time list, behind Athletic Bilbao, with 18.
Here are five things to know about Wednesday's Copa del Rey final at Mestalla Stadium in Valencia:
For many Real Madrid fans, Cristiano Ronaldo's most memorable goal was his extra-time header at Mestalla Stadium to edge Barcelona 1-0 in the 2011 Copa del Rey final.
Madrid now returns to the same ground in a rematch but must do so without their Ballon d'Or winner.
Ronaldo has missed Madrid's last three games with a leg muscle injury on top of an already sore left knee. That means the weight of Madrid's attack falls to Gareth Bale, the Wales winger Madrid broke its own spending record on last year.
"We will be missing a player with incredible quality," Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "But the team can play well. It will motivate the rest."
MESSI STEPS UP?
It was only three weeks ago when Lionel Messi left the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium with a hat trick that led Barcelona to a 4-3 victory, giving the Argentine a "clasico" record with 21 career goals against Real Madrid.
How quickly things change.
Barcelona's elimination in the Champions League and its loss in the Spanish league at Granada has put Messi under unprecedented pressure after appearing lethargic.
"If there is one player we can't doubt, it's Messi," Barcelona captain Carles Puyol said. "He has accustomed us to seeing him score three goals, so when he doesn't score we are surprised."
CASILLAS VS. PINTO
The Copa del Rey final is special for all its players, but perhaps even more so for the two goalkeepers.