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Copa Del Rey – Important or not

With another Clasico this week, the Trequartista ponders the question if this week’s Copa del Rey clash is important at all…

Tomorrow night Real Madrid face off against Barcelona in another Clasico clash. Yes, another one. Oh, and one more after that. Even Iker Casillas is “tired of them” and feels they have become “a little decaffeinated.”

Yet it seems the Spanish Federation needs its monthly shot of the Clasico to curl it addiction. It won’t be for the league or even Europe. No, it’s for the Cup of Spain; the Spanish Cup; the King’s Cup; the Copa del Rey. With the fiery rivalry of these giants reaching fever pitch last season and again this season, the Copa clashes will undoubtedly be another important heated affair and despite the relatively low build up.

With Barcelona and Real Madrid, vanquishing other teams along its path, there was a feeling along Spain that they would meet again on route in the Copa. Rewind 8 months ago and we were all in the same boat: Real Madrid and Barcelona in the final of the Copa. Four games in 18 days; a league clash, two Champions League ties and one Copa del Rey final. Yet the final brought about the lowest attention – which was a surprise, given there was a trophy up for grabs – with the press focusing on the European clashes and the league tie. Yes, Champions League is the end all and be all of football and given that Barcelona were rampaging towards it, Real desperately wanted to stop the party and claim “La Decima” (the tenth). The league was considered a more vital match, despite Barcelona holding a 7-point advantage and looking a comfortable bet to make it three-in-a-row.

And the Copa del Rey?

In case you didn’t know, Real Madrid beat Barcelona 1-0; Ronaldo scoring a sublime header in the 108th minute. It was Jose Mourinho’s one and only victory in eight games against Barcelona (4 losses and 3 draws) as manager of Real. The celebrations were long and fruitful. It was sign that Real were closing in on Barcelona. They didn’t of course. They haven’t won since, despite being favourites in the last Clasico clash where they lost 3-1. But forget all that. It’s the Copa del Rey – Spain’s premier competition. HA! Not. But truthfully, how important is this Clasico clash?

The deflated hype of the game is due to the regularity of clashes. There will be six Clasicos this season (two Super Cup, two league, two Copa ties) with two more matches on the horizon if they meet again in Europe. Yes, people love to see the big teams play, but the games are coming so thick and fast that people, well, are getting sick of them. Fans love watching El Clasico because of the rarity of the event – its huge, it engages you. A Clasico a month becomes routine and has lost its special flavour. The same questions are asked, dissected, debated, analysed all over again: How will Madrid play? Who will mark Messi? Who’ll be fit for Barcelona? Will it affect the entire season?

Both sides will go for it, no doubt. Getting one over your arch rivals is always going to be special. Will this match affect the campaign of these giants? Far from it, the Copa del Rey is the below the La Liga and Champions League in the pecking order, but its still a vital game. Why? It’s a little different. Things have changed this time around.

This could be Barcelona’s best chance for “proper” trophy this season (Not counting the ambush of Super Cups). Last season, when Barcelona lost the trophy, it didn’t matter to them. They had bigger fish to fry. This year though, they are struggling to be the side they have been over the last 3 seasons. They are 5 points behind Real in La Liga and while it might not be much, this is a league where, as Spanish expert Sid Lowe says “draws are the new defeats”. Barcelona need to be at the best for the rest of the season if they are to overtake Madrid – and they can, Madrid can suffer some “draws” too and put Barcelona back in it, but this is a different Real side. Barca are still in the Champions League, but there’s a reason it’s the best competition in the world and there is no doubt, it will be difficult to win – especially if they come across Real again.

Beat Real in the Copa they got it in the bag. Importantly, a Barcelona victory might bring gear them up with the belief they can overtake Real; it might in turn, fire up Madrid even more.

If Real lose? Well, it could affect them psychologically – what do they have to do to beat their rivals? How can they beat their rivals? The pressure will mount and talk of them faulting in the league will spread. They have already shown that even if they lose to Barcelona they can still win the league. Mourinho has instilled that belief. After the 3-1 defeat, Mourinho simply said: “The dressing room is sad but relaxed. But if we beat Sevilla we will be leaders at Christmas.” And that’s what they did. They crushed them 6-2. The result showed that they have a mental toughness that has been lacking for years. They won’t be giving up the league that easily.

And no question, they want the Champions League. Winning it a year after their rivals would be the majestic to them. But imagine if they win the Copa too? Winning a treble? Madristas would gloat, sing, cheer, yell, and scream about how their treble victory was better, greater, than Barcelona’s – beating the one of football’s greatest sides.

The Copa del Rey might lack the buzz of previous encounters, but its result might have an effect on the season long term. This is still the Cup of Spain, a prestigious trophy to have on the mantel piece. Being that the tides have changed in Spain, the pendulum has swung sides, these Clasico clashes are going to interesting as ever – regardless if you’re sick of them or not. 

Andrew Bishara

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