|Emmanuel Adebayor says Real are 'pleased' after a good week in both La Liga and in Europe [GALLO/GETTY]
Spring is making its presence felt in Spanish football's eternal rivalry, as the duel for trophies between Real Madrid and Barcelona heats up in the crucial final three months of the season.
Both Real Madrid, hungry for trophies after two years without any to their name, and Barcelona, playing for both the history books and the applause they garner worldwide on a regular basis for their spectacular style of play, are looking formidable opponents in this heavyweight bout.
In terms of recent sporting rivalries, only the Federer versus Nadal tennis clashes seem comparable.
On one side of the net is the stylish Catalan side, effortlessly swiping at the ball and creating dream-like moves on the pitch, on the other the sheer force and brute strength of the Spanish capital team.
Paraguayan Nelson Valdez watches the pair's dominance from the sidelines as a striker for Spanish strugglers Hercules CF.
"The two are in another league," Valdez, who saw his national team eliminated in cruel fashion by Spain at the quarterfinals of last summer's World Cup finals, told Al Jazeera.
"The two are in another league. I think they both have a team which is good enough to control all the games against all the other teams"
Nelson Valdez, Hercules striker, on Real and Barca's dominance
"I think they both have a team which is good enough to control all the games against all the other teams."
Indeed, the Spanish Primera Division has long been a battle of the top two teams this season, with Real Madrid leading the way, before dropping behind with the 5-0 loss in the Nou Camp.
The last round of matches in La Liga saw Real Madrid close the gap at the top to just five points after a Benzema double let Jose Mourinho’s team cruise to a 2-0 win over Hercules.
After the match, new Real Madrid striker Emmanuel Adebayor talked confidently to Al Jazeera about the chances of his side taking the biggest trophy on offer this season.
"I think this year we have a big team and talented players so I think we can win the Champions League," the Togo international said.
"We've got a lot of good players to make the difference. We also tried to close the gap in La Liga a little bit tonight, and we’ve done that very well, so everyone is pleased."
The atmosphere in the Spanish capital was elated after Wednesday night's resounding 3-0 win sent Jose Mourinho's team through to the final eight after a six year absence. And on the same day, the shock news of in-form Barcelona defender Eric Abidal's tumour sent shockwaves through the defending La Liga champions' dressing room.
But Pep Guardiola's team has already shown their mental strength on plenty of occasions this season, and will be ready to make their final charge as the season draws to a spectacular close.
With an absolute freedom of draw in Friday's grand ceremony, the coming month provide the possibility of an unprecedented four meetings between the two sides in April.
The Spanish Cup final between the two already beckons on April 20th, as does the league match in Madrid the previous weekend.
But in the lead up to the draw, most of those Madrid fans asked could be heard proclaiming they would prefer a final between arguably the top two sides in Europe at the moment.
As Valdez says, it might certainly be a two-team top of the league in Spain this season, just as it was last year, but that hardly takes away any of the spectacle.
On the contrary, proceedings are heating up to such an extent that wild accusations are already flying ahead of that heady batch of El Clasico ties.
Mind games have included the usual allegations of unfair refereeing, and the more unusual recent allusions to doping related practices.
All should be ignored by the true football fan. This fascinating sporting rivalry, just as that between Federer and Nadal, will be decided exclusively on the green Spanish pitches of Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona this spring.
Source: Al Jazeera