Min­nows dream as Spain’s be­lea­guered Cup re­turns

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Spain’s lesser-known sides are dream­ing of their day in the sun, but the re­turn of hold­ers Barcelona and 18 other La Liga sides to the Copa del Rey this week has a fa­mil­iar flat feel. Un­like Eng­land’s FA Cup, Spain’s knock­out com­pe­ti­tion is a two-legged af­fair un­til the fi­nal and seeded in the early rounds. Whilst that se­cures a glam­our tie and some much needed cash for those low­est down the pyra­mid lucky enough to make it to the last 32, up­sets are few and far be­tween.

“We don’t have com­pe­ti­tion in the Cup,” La Liga pres­i­dent Javier Te­bas has ar­gued and ad­mits re­forms to the com­pe­ti­tion will be stud­ied af­ter a new three-year tele­vi­sion deal runs out. Barcelona haven’t been elim­i­nated by any­one other than Real Madrid in six sea­sons. Yet, de­spite that record, even Barca boss Luis En­rique is in favour of a change to the rules. “I would like a one-off game in all ties of the Copa del Rey,” he said last sea­son.

The record 28-time Cup win­ners be­gin their de­fence at Her­cules of the third tier. How­ever, with a hugely im­por­tant league meet­ing with Madrid to come in La Liga on Satur­day, the fans in Ali­cante are un­likely to catch a glimpse of the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez or Ney­mar.

Her­cules won on their last visit to the Camp Nou, shock­ing Pep Guardi­ola’s all-con­quer­ing Barca side 2-0 in 2010.

But they have since tum­bled down the league lad­der since with two rel­e­ga­tions in four years. “It is a great joy, es­pe­cially for the fans that have suf­fered a lot in re­cent years,” said Her­cules cap­tain Paco Pena.

The fi­nan­cially-stricken Her­cules also hope to make 600,000 eu­ros ($635,000) through gate re­ceipts and TV money from the tie.

Real Madrid are al­ready well on their way to the last 16 as they host Cul­tural Leonesa at the San­ti­ago Bern­abeu to­mor­row boast­ing a 7-1 lead from the first leg.

Zine­dine Zi­dane is ex­pected to re­serve all of his star names with the Cla­sico in mind, but Brazil­ian mid­fielder Casemiro could come into con­tention for the Camp Nou clash as he will start for the first time in two months af­ter re­cov­er­ing from a bro­ken leg.

Gui­jelo will be dressed to im­press as they seek to shock Atletico Madrid. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the Sala­manca prov­ince is fa­mous for its Ibe­rian ham and Gui­jelo will don a spe­cial shirt di­vided into Atletico’s fa­mous red and white strips and strips of ham.

Mean­while, Sevilla will have to catch a boat from Ibiza for their clash with For­mentera, an is­land bet­ter known in foot­ball cir­cles as a favoured hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion for Messi and Cris­tiano Ron­aldo. — AFP

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