Here we go again.
The world's top rivalry takes center stage when Real Madrid hosts Barcelona in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals (4 p.m., GOLTV/ESPN3.com), the first of two meetings in a week's time that will determine which club advances to the semifinals.
Ever since Real Madrid captured last year's Copa del Rey final at Barcelona's expense, the Catalan club has owned the heated rivalry. Barcelona topped Madrid in the 2010-11 UEFA Champions League semifinals, outlasted Madrid for the league title, was victorious in the two-legged Spanish SuperCopa at the beginning of the season and enjoyed a comfortable victory in league play last month despite conceding a goal in the first minute.
Even with that, Real Madrid is currently in the driver's seat in La Liga, owning a five-point edge over Barcelona, which has only lost once all season but has been held to recent draws while Madrid has been nearly perfect — save for the loss at home to Barcelona on Dec. 10.
Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, who celebrates his 41st birthday on Wednesday, has elected to start Jose Pinto over Victor Valdes in goal — as is the norm in this competition — and is without the services of Pedro, who has a leg injury. He has called in Barcelona B standouts Jonathan dos Santos and Isaac Cuenca to take places on the gameday squad as well.
Jose Mourinho also has lineup decisions to make, with Sami Khedira out injured, Alvaro Arbeloa out suspended and Angel di Maria just recently returning to training after a thigh injury and not at full fitness.
In case you needed a refresher on the intensity of the rivalry, enjoy this:
What are your predictions for today's match? Which team do you see advancing to the semifinals? Do you see Barcelona catching Madrid in La Liga?
Share your thoughts below.