Real bid to extend Madrid derby streak in cup final

Real Madrid will hope to end a difficult season on a high when they face Atletico Madrid in Friday's Copa del Rey final, with Los Blancos aiming to continue their long-running dominance in meetings with their city rivals.

Real bid to extend Madrid derby streak in cup final
All eyes will be on Real and Atleti's top scorers Cristiano Ronaldo and Radamel Falcao. Photo: Pierre Philippe Marcou/Odd Anderesen/AFP

An acrimonious campaign marred by on-pitch failure and behind-the-scenes unrest is set to end with manager Jose Mourinho leaving Madrid, but the Portuguese will hope to bow out with one more piece of silverware.

Madrid will finish a distant second behind champions Barcelona in La Liga and once again failed in their bid to win that elusive 10th European Cup, losing to Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals, so all that is left is the chance to win back the Copa del Rey, which they also won in Mourinho's first season in charge two years ago.

Both clubs wanted this game to be played in Madrid and Real's Santiago Bernabeu home, with its 80,000 capacity, got the nod over Atletico's smaller Vicente Calderon.

That would appear to give Mourinho's side even more of an edge but, when the clubs last contested the final, Atletico beat Real 2-0 at the Bernabeu in 1992, with Bernd Schuster — the German who later coached Los Blancos — and Paulo Futre scoring the goals.

Madrid also lost 2-1 to Deportivo in the 2002 final despite the Spanish federation allowing them to stage the game at the Bernabeu to mark Real's centenary.

However, Atletico, the club of the grimy working-class quarters of southern Madrid, have endured over a decade of misery against their wealthier neighbours, from the upmarket Chamartin district to the north.

Remarkably, they have not won any of the last 25 meetings between the teams since a 3-1 win at the Bernabeu in October 1999, a season in which they were relegated.

In a sense, though, there is no disgrace in that — figures reported recently by sports daily AS indicated that Real's budget for this season is €517 million ($665m) compared to 123 million euros ($158m) for Atletico.

"It's going to be a strange final because we're playing in our stadium but the fans will be divided 50/50," Real's Cristiano Ronaldo, whose majestic header in extra-time secured victory in a tense final against Barcelona in 2011, told Real Madrid TV.

"That isn't going to take away our ambition to win this Cup. We know that the stadium will be divided. Let's hope that the best team wins. If we go out on the pitch strong and we play as we know how, we're going to win."

Mourinho has lost the support of key players in the dressing room this season, especially due to the tension between him and goalkeeper Iker Casillas which has seen the Spain captain frozen out of the side.

Losing against Atletico — something that has not happened to any Madrid coach since John Toshack — would be the worst possible way to bow out, and Mourinho's preparations for the final have not been helped by an injury to young French defender Raphael Varane.

Despite that, Real, whose run to this season's final included eliminating holders Barcelona in the last four, remain the favourites, but Atletico are hoping to end their derby hoodoo when it matters most.

"I am convinced that we will win," said Atletico's former Real full-back Juanfran.

"Our weapons have served us well all season long. This Atletico has a clearly defined strategy and we know what we need to do to win."

That strategy has been based around a mean defence — the best in La Liga — and the goals of Radamel Falcao, who has scored 28 in the league.

Coach Diego Simeone played in the last Atletico team to win the Cup, in their double-winning 1995-96 season. He has revived the fortunes of the team since taking charge, winning the Europa League and the European Super Cup last year and now overseeing their best league campaign since 1996, with third place and automatic qualification for next season's Champions League group stage guaranteed.

For all that, he knows victory against Real would be the biggest triumph yet of his reign.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Black Lives Matter: Marcelo ‘takes the knee’ to celebrate Real Madrid win

Marcelo celebrated by taking a knee as Real Madrid returned from three months away following the coronavirus suspension by beating Eibar 3-1 on Sunday.

Black Lives Matter: Marcelo 'takes the knee' to celebrate Real Madrid win
Real Madrid's Brazilian defender Marcelo kneels on the field to celebrate his goal. Photo: AFP

After scoring Madrid's third goal in the 37th minute, Marcelo dropped onto his left knee and raised his clinched right fist into the air, apparently in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Madrid's win may have come at a cost as Eden Hazard and Sergio Ramos were both substituted early in the second half and were seen with ice packs strapped to them while sitting in the stands.

Hazard was making his first start since February and his ice pack appeared to be around his troublesome right ankle, which he injured in November and February, before undergoing surgery in March.

“We knew Eden would lack a bit of rhythm playing the whole game,” coach Zinedine Zidane said.

“He played well for an hour, he took a knock which was a scare but at half-time he said he was fine. He is happy with what he has done and we are happy with him.”

Madrid's win means they reduce the gap behind league leaders Barcelona back to two points after the Catalans thrashed Real Mallorca 4-0 on Saturday.    

Madrid struck in the fourth minute after a superb strike from Toni Kroos before Ramos tucked away Hazard's pass on the counter-attack.    

Eibar pulled one back in the second half through Pedro Bigas but never found the second to make Madrid nervous, despite a brief spell of pressure.    

Before going off, Hazard was busy, the Belgian involved in all three goals.    

His weaving run through midfield led to Kroos' shot and it was his effort that was cleared out to Marcelo, who drove into the corner.    

After a miserable opening season in Spain, it was a bright start for Hazard, who could now redeem himself by playing a crucial role in the run-in, if he can stay injury-free.

Perhaps even more impressive though was Karim Benzema, who linked up brilliantly with Hazard and was unfortunate not to get the goal an excellent all-round performance deserved.

Gareth Bale started on the bench but came on and could start against Valencia on Thursday.

Zidane is likely to rotate heavily over the next few weeks, with the games coming thick and fast.

New surroundings

Madrid's coach will also have been pleased to get off to a positive start in their new training ground home, which was the 100th different stadium to be used in La Liga.

They will be playing all their remaining home matches at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium to allow renovation work at the Santiago Bernabeu to continue this summer.

“We know the situation, it's all a bit strange,” said Zidane. “But the players are all champions and we have to get our heads around it.”    

Barca had needed less than two minutes to score against Mallorca and Madrid were only slightly later, as Hazard broke through Eibar's midfield and Casemiro set Benzema free.

The ball was cleared to Kroos on the edge of the area, who struck first time, sidefooting perfectly into the far top right-hand corner.   

Ramos doubled their advantage after starting, and finishing, a ruthless counter-attack. In between, Benzema and Hazard were involved again, the former picking out the latter, who generously gave Ramos an open goal.

Marcelo put Eibar all but out of sight before half-time as Benzema played through for Hazard and his shot spilled out to Marcelo to lash into the corner.

Eibar were better after the break as Edu Exposito forced a full-stretch save from Thibaut Courtois and then Sergi Enrich headed against the crossbar. 

Bigas did score after diverting in Pedro Leon's shot but Madrid held on.    

Earlier, Diego Costa scored his first goal since October but Atletico Madrid missed the chance to move into La Liga's top four by drawing 1-1 away at Athletic Bilbao.

Costa celebrated by holding up the shirt of Virgina Torrecilla, a player from Atletico's women's team, who underwent surgery on a brain tumour last month.

His equaliser came two minutes after the excellent Iker Muniain had given Bilbao the lead towards the end of the first half and neither side could find a winner at the empty San Mames, with Atletico defender Santiago Arias missing the best chance late on.

Diego Simeone's side stay sixth, level on points with Getafe and one behind Real Sociedad, who were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Osasuna.