Bitter rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona are preparing to meet twice in the space of four days in a Clasico double-header that will potentially determine where the domestic silverware in Spain ends up this year.
First up is the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg at Real’s Santiago Bernabeu home on Wednesday, before the pair lock horns again in La Liga at the same venue on Saturday.
The Copa del Rey tie remains in the balance at 1-1 following the first leg at the Nou Camp, where Malcolm canceled out an early opener from Real’s Lucas Vazquez.
In La Liga, Barca sit top with a seven-point cushion over Atletico Madrid and Real a further two points behind in third.
The double-header Clasico will, then, potentially have a huge say on the fates of both teams entering the business end of the season.
Ahead of the games, RT Sport looks at five key subplots that could determine how things pan out over the two meetings.
1. THE BALE ENIGMA
Despite being at the club for six years, scoring 101 goals in 220 games, and helping the club to four Champions League titles in that time, Gareth Bale remarkably remains something of a misfit at Real.
Far from courting hero status at the Bernabeu, Bale is instead seen by many as an injury-prone, peripheral figure who cannot always be relied on.
Recent comments from teammates have painted the picture of someone still not fully integrated into the team, a man who prefers taking to the golf course to socializing with teammates.
He is also yet to gain a decent enough command of Spanish to converse with his teammates, according to Brazilian full-back Marcelo.
And then there are the frustrations on the pitch. Bale has increasingly featured from the bench, coming on to score a penalty winner at the weekend against Levante, his seventh goal in 20 La Liga appearances this term.
He refused to celebrate, even shrugging off teammate Lucas Vazquez’s attempts to congratulate him.
Real boss Santiago Solari brushed off the incident, saying the Welshman “can celebrate how he likes,” while Bale is said to be in line to start at least one of the games in the Clasico double-header.
But how he responds when called upon will be key to whether he restores some belief from the Madrid faithful, or whether he takes a step fu