Barcelona and Real Madrid are on the verge of meeting in the Copa del Rey final for the first time in 21 years. Both teams head into their return legs of the semi-finals tonight holding the advantage. Barcelona, the record 25-times winners of the competition, lead Almeria 5-0 while Madrid hold a 1-0 advantage ahead of the home leg against the defending champions Seville.
The domestic cup competition could be Jose Mourinho's only chance to win some silverware this season; it would also be the club's first appearance in the final since 2004. That would be timely news after Madrid dropped seven points behind the leaders Barcelona in the league.
"The team is in good shape, motivated to get to the final," Mourinho said yesterday. "It's been many years since Madrid reached it. We're one game away from reaching it. It won't be easy but we want to get to the final."
Madrid, who have won all 16 games played at the Bernabeu Stadium this season, have not won any trophy for more than two seasons. They won their 17th – and last – Copa del Rey in 1993.
Mourinho left the midfielders Fernando Gago, Sergio Canales and Pedro Leon out of the squad, while they are also likely to be without defender Pepe, who is nearly recovered from a leg injury.
Newly signed striker Emmanuel Adebayor is almost certain to play after making his debut as a substitute in Sunday's 1-0 league loss at Osasuna, a defeat that has made Madrid's attempt to win a first league trophy since 2008 even more challenging.
"January was a difficult month with us having played nine games and while there are players who are used to that, there are some that aren't because in the past years Madrid has been eliminated in the first round of the cup," the Portuguese coach said. "The problem from a mental standpoint is it's more taxing to play twice a week."
The final is scheduled for 20 April – four days after Barcelona and Madrid meet in the league. The last time the two rivals met at that stage was 1990, when Barcelona won 2-0.
The Seville coach, Gregorio Manzano, has included his two transfer signings in the team for the trip to the Spanish capital – the Chile midfielder Gary Mendel and Croatia international Ivan Rakitic. The regular goalkeeper Andres Palop was also left out in favour of Javi Varas.
"If everyone is saying that Madrid has lost its chance at winning the league, which I don't agree with, and that reaches the locker room and they know there are only two titles left to win – the cup and the Champions League – then they're going to want to beat us," Manzano said.
Most of the Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola's press conference yesterday was taken up with questions about a potential match-up with Madrid and the league race.
"We don't have time to think about what could happen, we can't stop. We'll rest four or five players this week because an international game is coming up and then the league and European matches come up," Guardiola said. "Thinking about the treble in January is a waste of time. So the objective is to keep competing and to keep working."
The Barcelona defender Carles Puyol could be rested as well as his Spain team-mate Andres Iniesta, who has a left shoulder problem.
Almeria, who lost 8-0 at home to Barcelona in the league this season, will count on Sofiane Feghouli for the match at the Juegos Mediterraneos Stadium after the French player arrived on loan from Valencia on Monday.Reuse content