MADRID – Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium and Valencia’s Mestalla are set to be the focus of attention for soccer fans eagerly waiting to see which teams will proceed to the final of the Copa del Rey.
Vying for a ticket to the final, slated for May 25 at Seville’s Benito Villamarin stadium, Madrid is set to host archrival Barcelona in the Spanish capital on Wednesday while Real Betis is set to travel to Valencia the following day.
In the first-leg semifinal encounter, Barcelona had to settle for a 1-1 draw against the capital team. Therefore, holder Barcelona would need a win or at least a 2-2 draw to move a step closer to defending the title it earned last by routing Sevilla 5-0.
The Catalan team has become something of an expert in taking home a victory from the Madrid stronghold recently.
There are exceptions for every role, and Barcelona’s win is far from granted as Madrid emerged victorious on several occasions, such as its 3-1 La Liga victory in the 2014-2015 campaign and most recently it prevailed over its nemesis 2-0 in the second leg of the 2017 Spanish Super Cup.
Furthermore, Madrid is the last team who ended Barcelona’s campaign in the knockout stages of the tournament in 2012/2013 semifinal, which although some time ago, is not completely forgotten by either fan group.
Since then, Barcelona proved to be invincible in the Spanish Cup ties, as it reached the final in the following year, only to fall short with a 2-1 loss at the hands of Madrid in the final held at the Mestalla stadium.
A dominating Barcelona then proceeded to win the following four titles.
Barça’s in-form Lionel Messi is to lead the charge at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, having scored his 50th hat-trick of his career in the 4-2 away win over Sevilla in La Liga action this weekend.
As usual, Messi will be the main headache for the Madrid defense, as well as Uruguay’s Luis Suarez. Neutralizing them could prove to be a key part of Madrid’s potential success.
However, Barcelona’s formidable attacking line would not be the only concern of Madrid captain and center back Sergio Ramos. The defender, who has a propensity for strong tackles, will miss the final he sees another yellow card against Barcelona.
Meanwhile, Valencia is to host Real Betis at the Mestalla stadium with the hope of evoking the much-needed fighting spirit that led them to rally back from 2-0 deficit in the first leg for a 2-2 draw.
Since then, Valencia has managed to win just twice, including against Celtic in the Europa League round of 32. Otherwise, it has had to settle for three draws, the most recent against Leganes on Sunday.
Valencia may draw strength from the fact that they have been invincible against Betis since Sept. 11, 2016.