This preview post comes with less than two hours to go for the Copa del Rey final. As the saying goes, better late than never! To keep this succinct, I’ll break it down into talking points:
Reactions from the 1-1 draw on Saturday
Perhaps the strongest voice, in light of how Madrid played, surfaced from Don Alfredo in his column with Marca where he blasted the Whites for lacking a personality. He was more generous with his praise towards Barca for dominating the game, but he did acknowledge the tremendous fighting spirit shown by the Whites as we came back from a goal down. Now the reason I’m bringing this up is because of the general reaction Don Alfredo’s comments have earned amongst Madridistas. Most acknowledged the timing was perhaps a little off, but a handful were outraged enough to call for his demotion as Honorary President at Real Madrid. If you were one of them, ask yourself why you still call yourself a Madridista. Alfredo Di Stefano has done more for Real Madrid than the entire decade’s squad put together – he has single-handedly defined Real Madrid on the world stage, and won just about everything there’s to win in club football. To see Madridistas bash this man for what he said was outrightly disappointing. Disgusting even. Because, hey, he has a point – today we adjust our strategies, like deploying Pepe in midfield to contain the Barca attack, according to how Pep Guardiola names his line-up. Not long ago, Barca used to be in our position, and we had no problem pushing them aside. Does anyone remember the Clasico a couple of years back, when Barca had to form a guard of honour at the Bernabeu to welcome the Champions and then were hammered 4-1? That’s the Real Madrid we know and love, and if the Honorary President tells us that we should be aiming to be at the top of our game again, why the heck would you get upset? In fact, we should take it with pride, because at the end of the day, he STILL praised us, our 10-man team without a personality for drawing against Barcelona. Isn’t that praise for us and an insult against Barcelona? Won’t you see the cup half full rather than half empty?
Marca has already predicted that Mourinho will be planning to use Ozil as a false nine in a line-up of 4-3-1-2, with Di Maria and Cristiano up front. When asked about this in the press conference, Mourinho very diplomatically revealed that he plans to name Sergio Ramos and ten other men in the squad. Of course, that won’t stop the speculations about who we’ll see in the team until the teams are announced. Personally, I’d like to see Pepe back in his defensive midfield role again, forming the trivote with Xabi and Khedira. He was fantastic on Saturday in immobilising Barca’s flow of attack – for intercepting the majority of the passes made to Messi. I have doubts over Ozil and Di Maria’s match fitness to last the full ninety minutes and still be effective in the game, and I suspect at some point we will see Benzema and/or Adebayor come on, where we will probably change the line-up again into a 4-3-2-1 with a lone striker ahead. Raul Albiol will miss the clash after picking up a red card on Saturday, which paves way for Arbeloa to start, and it is likely Ramos will assume a Centre-back role. As for Barcelona, according to Guardiola, Valdes will be rested and in his place Pinto will start. Not sure about the rest of the possible line ups – jury still out on whether Puyol will eventually play, despite conflicting sources.
(I realise the team line-ups will be released very soon; once they’re confirmed, I’ll put them in)
Win or lose? Let’s hope for a good game!
If we win tonight, it’ll be our first Copa del Rey in nineteen years. For a nation that relies so heavily on the feeding pattern of octopi to determine outcomes of a football game (hey, you won’t hear the Spanish national team complain!), Madridistas have reason to cheer. An octopus named Iker, which predicted the outcome of the first El Clasico correctly, has chosen Real Madrid as the winner of the tie. Jury is still out on that, but for what it’s worth, it’ll be a cracking game! Hala Madrid!