Real Madrid face their Madrid rivals Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey final on 17th May at Real’s home ground, Santiago Bernabeau. This is the only chance for both the teams to bag silverware in this season. Real paid more emphasis on grabbing La decima but fell short to Borussia Dortmund. Thanks to a long hangover and rift between players and coach, Real continued to drop points in the La Liga to virtually hand over the title to Barcelona during Christmas. On the other hand, Atletico are going to finish 3rd behind Real in La Liga, securing a place in the Champions League. So, we do expect a riveting battle between the Madrid sides.
1) Real Madrid to salvage some pride in a disappointing season.
Real Madrid were set on track to capture the elusive 10th Champions League title on the back of one and only – Cristiano Ronaldo. A lacklustre display in the first part of the season where he expressed his “unhappiness” in the club was put to rest in the beginning of 2013 as he pumped in one goal after another in the league and is the top scorer in the Champions League (12 goals). He has 34 goals to his credit in La Liga. He scored his 200th goal against Malaga, becoming the 6th Madrid player to do so. But the fact that Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas were at loggerheads with Jose Mourinho throughout the season took its toll on Madrid’s performance and the unity was missing. Injuries to key players like Marcelo, Casillas, Pepe disrupted the rhythm of the team. Real’s find of the season, Raphael Varane, has a ligament tear and is going to miss the cup final. Playmaker Mesut Ozil had a good start to the season but faded as the season wore on.
Real had 37 points after the first leg of 19 matches in the league, 18 points behind leaders Barcelona. They rallied in the 2nd half but had too much to catch up. Though Real had the upper hand over Barca (W-3 D-2 L-1), they dropped points against mediocre teams which showed their inconsistency. Real’s Achilles Heel has been their defence. They hardly had a clean sheet. Alonso was not upto the task in the first half, Pepe was more known for his theatrics and is now not even on the bench for speaking against the coach. Arbeloa and Essien were indifferent. With Varene out, Mourinho will have a headache to shuffle his defensive resources. This is Real’s only chance to put a smile on their fans’ faces.
2) Atletico Madrid’s chance to break Real-Barca monopoly
The man in the picture, Radamel Falcao , has been Atletico’s heart and soul in this season. The goal scoring spree of this stalwart made Atletico the 3rd best team in La Liga, pushing Valencia way behind. The fact that they kept pace with the big two shows volumes of their capability. Falcao has 28 goals in La Liga. Atletico’s success revolved around this Columbian forward. This was amplified by Falcao’s destructive show against Chelsea in Atletico’s 4-1 win in the Super Cup. The USP of Atletico’s season was making their home stadium, Calderon, a fortress. They were almost unbeatable at home. They led their city rivals Los Blancos by 7 points at the end of 1st leg league matches (19 matches). But the effects of the long season took its toll on the team and they somehow lost their path to finish behind Real. In the European stage, Atletico were knocked out by Rubin Kazan in the Europa League and also lost their unbeaten home record. The Argentinian coach Simeone had instilled a sense of fearlessness and offense instinct within the team to show that they are no inferior to Barca and Real. It is not only Falcao’s team. The Brazilian Diego Costa did step into the picture whenever Falcao did not perform. The defence, led by Godin, stood tall whenever required. The young goalkeeper Courtois was rocksolid. This Cup final can be Atletico’s chance to show that a new force is coming up the ranks in Spain.
Outcome of the Final
With the defence in both teams being vulnerable, expect the tie to have goals. Atletico have a knack to score first and we can expect that. But Real are not far to be left behind. They have enough resources and experience to rally back. Mourinho’s mastermind may prove to be the difference between the teams. He may not have a good rapport with certain players but knows how to bring out the best within the players. History is also against Atletico. The last time Los Blancos lost against Atletico was way back in 1999. Most importantly, Real Madrid is unbeaten at Santiago Bernabeau this season. It will a tight contest but Real may just scrap through to win their 19th Copa del Rey cup.