The two most popular teams in Spain have the possibility of meeting again in a Copa del Rey championship game, something that doesn’t happen since 1990 when Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 2-0 in Valencia and proclaimed themselves as the champions.
Since their last championship in 1993 against Real Zaragoza, Real Madrid has found nothing but frustrations in every Copa del Rey edition, where they even suffered a painful defeat the day of their centenary in their home field against Deportivo de la Coruna by 1-2. Despite having won 17 titles in the franchise history, the white team has watched the exact number of seasons go by without being able to crown themselves as the number one team of a competition that was established in 1902 to honor the coronation of Alfonso XIII.
Real Madrid won a semifinal berth after leaving behind their city rival Atletico de Madrid by a 4-1 score in the aggregate. Their last obstacle before the final will be no other than the defending champion Sevilla, team that defeated Villareal by 6-3 in the aggregate.
Sevilla is already heating things up prior to Wednesday’s game through the media, as they have aired a video in their website with a slogan in Portuguese, in clear reference to Real Madrid’s coach Jose Mourinho -from Portugal- that reads: “we will leave without title”. And in Spanish the appeal to their fans to pack up the stadium by telling them: “don’t let no Real Madrid fan take up your seat”.
The defending champions need to make the best out of their home field advantage, as one week later -February the 2nd- they will be closing the series at Madrid, in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. That field brings good memories to Sevilla as it was the scenario where they won the 2007 Copa del Rey title against Getafe by 3-1. The last time that Sevilla and Real Madrid collided in this competition was back in the 2004 semifinals, which was won by Real Madrid 2-1 in the aggregate. The last game was disputed in Sevilla was very controversial, since Real Madrid’s sports manager Jorge Valdano went into the referees’ locker-room during halftime and at the beginning of the second half Iturralde Gonzalez showed a red card to Javi Navarro.
The 25-time Copa del Rey winner Barcelona is the clear favorite in the other game of the semifinals, as they face Almeria, a team that has never won the competition and marches third from last in La Liga championship. In that competition Barcelona defeated them by 8-0 on the road two months ago, and now will meet again under completely different circumstances on January 26. In this competition Almeria is not the team that fights against relegation, but the team that defeated Deportivo by 4-2 in the aggregate for the quarterfinals, and wants to surprise Barcelona in the semifinals.
Barcelona already knows the importance of taking this competition seriously and what kind of problems they can go through against low-profile teams, as in the quarterfinals they lost to second division Real Betis on the road by 3-1. If it wasn’t because they had won the first game at home by 5-0, a surprise could have had taken place. Knowing this, don’t take Almeria elimination for granted.