Madrid: 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 the return leg of the semifinals
Wednesday holding the advantage. Record 25-time champion
Barcelona leads Almeria 5-0 before Wednesday`s game, and
Madrid won 1-0 at defending champion Sevilla.
The domestic cup competition could be Madrid coach Jose
Mourinho`s only chance to win silverware this season and the
club`s first return to the final since 2004. That would be
welcome news after Madrid dropped seven points behind leader
Barcelona in the league.
"The team is in good shape, motivated to get to the
final," Mourinho said Tuesday. "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, which has won all 16 games played at the Santiago
Bernabeu Stadium this season, hasn`t won any trophy for more
than two seasons. It won its 17th and last Copa del Rey in
Mourinho left midfielders Fernando Gago, Sergio Canales
and Pedro Leon out of the squad, while the team is likely to
be without defender Pepe, who is nearly recovered from a leg
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 bid
for 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 April 20, four days after the
pair meet in the league. The last time the two rivals met at
that stage was 1990, when Barcelona won 2-0.
Sevilla coach Gregorio Manzano included his two transfer
signings in the team for the trip to the Spanish capital _
Chile midfielder Gary Mendel and Croatia international Ivan
Regular goalkeeper Andres Palop was also left out in
favor 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 their going to
want to beat us," Manzano said.
Most of Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola`s news conference
Tuesday was directed by questions about a potential matchup
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."
Barcelona defender Carles Puyol could be rested as well
as Spain teammate Andres Iniesta, who has a left shoulder
Almeria will count on Sofiane Feghouli for the match at
the Juegos Mediterraneos Stadium after the French player
arrived on-loan from Valencia on Monday.
Almeria also lost 8-0 at home to Barcelona in the league