A wounded Barca travel to Valencia to meet their arch rivals after crashing out of the Champions League to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday and suffering a shock 1-0 reverse at Granada in La Liga three days later that left them four points behind leaders Atletico with five games to play.
               
Real, by contrast, are on a high after joining Atletico in the last four of Europe's elite club competition and climbing above Barca into second in La Liga, three points off the top, thanks to Saturday's 4-0 drubbing of Almeria.
               
Barca coach Gerardo Martino needs to lift his battered troops for the showpiece at the Mestalla, the venue where Real beat Barca 1-0 in the 2011 final thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo's headed goal in extra time.
               
The record Cup winners with 26 to Real's 18, Barca have had the upper hand against their rivals in La Liga this season, winning 2-1 at the Nou Camp in October and 4-3 at the Bernabeu last month.
               
However, Martino has come in for some heavy criticism after recent stumbles and the Argentine will have to shoulder the blame and suffer the consequences if he ends his first year in charge without any trophies apart from the season-opening Spanish Super Cup.
               
His side have generally managed to dominate opponents in customary fashion but have consistently failed to turn long periods of possession into goals, particularly on the road against defence-minded teams.
              
MESSI SITUATION
               
Talismanic Argentina captain Lionel Messi has gone off the boil just when Barca needed his sublime skills the most, while Brazil forward Neymar has blown hot and cold since his high-profile move from Santos in the close season.
               
"It's clear that the Cup is fundamental for us," sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, who has been widely criticised for not bringing in sufficient squad reinforcements, said on Spanish radio on Sunday.
               
Zubizarreta defended Messi, who has been accused of not putting in 100 percent effort for Barca so he is fresher for the World Cup finals starting in June.

 (Agencies)

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