The Copa del Rey semi-final tie between Barcelona and Real Madrid is finely poised.
The two clubs played out a 1-1 draw in the first leg at the Camp Nou, Malcom equalising in the second half after Lucas Vazquez’s early opener for Los Blancos.
It leaves the tie on a knife edge ahead of the return meeting.
Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde made the decision to start Lionel Messi on the bench in the first leg, the Argentinian suffering with a small injury heading into the match.
But Messi is healthy now - he proved that with a stunning hat-trick against Sevilla last Saturday - and he’ll be desperate to secure Barca’s place in the final.
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The 31-year-old is enjoying another remarkable season, netting 33 goals in all competitions already.
Yet meetings against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey have proven to be rather difficult for Messi over the years.
Real Madrid: Messi's kryptonite
The Barca forward has never scored in seven Copa del Rey matches against the Madrid giants.
Indeed, Madrid-based publication Marca have taken to calling Real Madrid in the domestic cup competition Messi’s ‘kryptonite’.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has scored 26 goals against Real in his career - 18 in La Liga, two in the Champions League and six in the Spanish Super Cup.
But in the Copa del Rey? He’s been held scoreless.
Real Madrid are just one of two clubs Messi has failed to score against in the competition, the other being Gramanet.
Messi faced Gramanet on November 2, 2004, in one of his first matches in the senior team under Frank Rijkaard.
In the seven meetings against Real, Messi has actually won just one match. That came in 2012, when Barcelona defeated their rivals 2-1 in the first leg of a quarter-final meeting in Madrid.
One-third of all the defeats Messi has been on the receiving end in the Copa del Rey have come against Los Blancos.
Marca write: “For whatever reason, Real Madrid simply have a stifling effect on Messi in the cup, but he has shown an incredible resilience to break-down all comparable psychological barriers over the course of his career.
“What Wednesday will show is whether or not he can do so once more, and in doing so hand Barcelona momentum going into the final stretch of LaLiga Santander and Champions League respectively.”
Real will be aware that, despite his record against them in the cup, Messi can turn it on in the flick of a switch.
Stopping him will be high on their list of priorities.News Now - Sport News