Barcelona and Real Madrid on verge of setting up Clasico Copa del Rey final

Both sides established comfortable leads in their first legs

Barcelona and Real Madrid are poised to secure their places in April's King's Cup final this week before turning their attention to the main prize on their agendas: the European Champions League.

The record domestic Cup winners with 26 titles, Barca are 2-0 up on Real Sociedad ahead of their semi-final second leg in San Sebastian on Wednesday (2100 GMT).

Real, who have claimed the trophy 18 times and are third on the all-time list behind Athletic Bilbao with 23, have a 3-0 cushion before their trip across the capital to play holders Atletico Madrid on Tuesday (2000).

As well as revenge for last season's 2-1 defeat in the final, Real's convincing performance in last week's first leg at the Bernabeu was the latest evidence they are coming into form just as the season is approaching a critical juncture.

Barca suffered a surprise wobble in La Liga at the beginning of the month, losing 3-2 at home to Valencia, but have made serene progress in the Cup and returned to the top of the league thanks to Sunday's impressive 4-1 comeback win at Sevilla.

Their four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi has taken time to get back into his stride following a two-month injury layoff around the turn of the year but his superb double in Seville suggested he is not far off his scintillating best.

"If anyone says anything negative about him all they are doing is provoking him," Barca coach Gerardo Martino, who hails from Messi's home town of Rosario in Argentina, told a news conference.

"And if you provoke the world's best player his next opponent will have a problem.

"He is always decisive, even if it is merely a matter of dragging opposition players into the centre and anything that distracts their attention is positive."

MINOR NIGGLES

Real also look to have their latest "galactico" signing, Wales winger Gareth Bale, back to full fitness after a series of minor niggles.

The world's most expensive player opened the scoring in Saturday's 4-2 La Liga win at home to Villarreal and set up Karim Benzema for the second of the night.

"I scored a fantastic goal and made an assist," Bale told reporters. "I am very pleased and available for the coach for our upcoming games.

"I am working hard on the pitch and in every training session so I can be in the team."

Once the Cup semi-finals are out of the way, Barca have one more La Liga game, at home to struggling Rayo Vallecano, before they play at Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League on Feb. 18.

Real play at Getafe and host Elche in La Liga before their trip to Germany to meet Schalke 04 on Feb. 26.

Reuters

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'