Advantage Barcelona in Copa del Rey as Real superstar sits out

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In what promises to be one of the tightest finals ever contested, as far as match odds are concerned, Barcelona may just have squeaked further ahead in the advantage stakes with the news that the world’s best player is set to miss the occasion.

Ballon d’Or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo, has missed Real Madrid’s last two matches with a hamstring complaint and having missed Los Blancos’ final training session before the Copa del Rey final, has been ruled out of any involvement by Carlo Ancelotti.

An unused substitute in the Champions League second leg with Borussia Dortmund, Ronaldo missed Real’s next match against Almeria altogether in the hope he could return to face the old enemy, but the precaution has come to no avail.

Ancelotti, who confirmed the news ahead of the clash, said: “Cristiano is not available because we do not want to take risks with him.”

The Italian denied that the setback could have been avoided had the former Manchester United man taken more of a break earlier in the season and will now have to make do with Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema from his regular front three.

Barcelona are the 7/5 favourites for the match, with a draw available at 13/5 and Real a 7/4 chance but Blaugrana have their own injury problems to deal with ahead of the showpiece event, namely at the heart of defence.

Club skipper Carlos Puyol has been a rarely-seen figure in the Barca backline this term, while injuries to Gerard Pique and Marc Bartra leaves Tata Martino short of options.

All three were included in the final’s squad for the trip to Valencia but none of the trio can boast full fitness ahead of a clash with one of Europe’s most potent attacks.

With Ronaldo out of the final though, Ladbrokes customers should find backing the first goalscorer easier as Barca’s Lionel Messi moves to 3/1 favourite for the accolade.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.