By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Real Madrid 3-3 Barcelona. The Copa del Rey has produced six Clasico finals in its 112-year history and it's all square so far, but a seventh showpiece between Spain's two top teams is now just around the corner as Barca face Madrid on Wednesday night in the sides' latest cup clash.
Madrid reached the final without conceding a single goal en route and thrashed city rivals Atletico 5-0 over two legs in the last four. However, it's not all good news for coach Carlo Ancelotti, who looks set to be without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo for the match at Mestalla.
Barcelona's problems appear even greater ahead of Wednesday's game, though, after the Catalans were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico last week and then saw their Liga hopes take a huge hit with defeat at Granada on Saturday.
Gerardo Martino's men won all but one of their games on their way to this next meeting with Madrid, sealing their spot in the showpiece thanks to a 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad in February (after a 2-0 first-leg victory) and the Blaugrana will hope for a repeat of the two previous Clasico clashes this term - a 2-1 win at Camp Nou in October and last month's 4-3 success at Santiago Bernabeu.
The first time Barca met Madrid in a Copa del Rey final was way back in 1936, just under a month before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.
|THE SIX CLASICO COPA DEL REY FINALS
|RM 2-1 FCB||Mestalla
|FCB 1-0 RM
|RM 4-0 FCB
|FCB 2-1 RM||Romareda||1983|
|FCB 2-0 RM||Mestalla||1990|
|RM 1-0 FCB||Mestalla||2011|
Barcelona had to wait over three decades to make amends, but the Catalans did win the next Clasico final - and they did it at the Bernabeu. In a meeting marked by controversy, Barca took the title thanks to a sixth-minute own-goal by Fernando Zunzunegui and received what was at the time the Copa del Generalisimo from the man who gave the trophy its name, infamous Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.
The third meeting came in 1974. Madrid had lost 5-0 at home to a Johan Cruyff-inspired Barca in La Liga and were out for revenge. They got it at the Vicente Calderon. At that time, however, foreigners weren't allowed to play in the Copa, so Madrid were without German Gunter Netzer and Argentine Oscar Mas, while Barca were unable to pick Cruyff nor Peru's Hugo Sotil. In a one-sided encounter, Madrid went ahead after seven minutes and went on to win 4-0, with Santillana and Pirri among the scorers.
Nine years passed before the two teams locked horns again in the final of the Copa del Rey, this time in a bad-tempered encounter played in Zaragoza. Diego Maradona, subjected to some crunching challenges by Jose Antonio Camacho and Paco Bonet, set up the first goal for Victor Munoz and although Santillana levelled for Madrid, Marcos Alonso headed home to ensure the trophy went back to Catalunya. Madrid, meanwhile, were known as "eternal runners-up", having finished second in Liga, Copa, Copa de La Liga, Cup Winners' Cup and the Spanish Supercopa that season.
Barca won again in 1990 in a tight match which was decided by second-half goals scored by Guillermo Amor and Julio Salinas, after Madrid's Fernando Hierro had been sent off in the first half. The trophy was the first won by Johan Cruyff as Barca boss, with the Dutchman thought be close to the sack at the end of his second season. "We needed that trophy because it was the last option we had that season," Amor said. "At the club you heard certain things, but winning the Copa gave us confidence." Later, the Dream Team was born.
Back at Mestalla in 2011, Jose Mourinho then claimed his first silverware as Madrid coach. After a goalless 90 minutes, Cristiano Ronaldo rose in extra time to head home Angel Di Maria's left-wing cross and seal victory for los Blancos, who finished with 10 men as the Argentine winger was sent off right at the end.
|He is one of a unique group of coaches, to which only he belongs, who criticise referees' correct decisions"
- Mourinho on Pep after Copa win in 2011
Barca thought they had gone ahead through Pedro in normal time, but the winger's strike was correctly - though marginally - ruled offside. Pep Guardiola later said that, but for "the assistant's good eyesight", Barca would have won the cup. Mourinho mocked his former friend, claiming he formed part of a unique group of coaches, to which only the Catalan belonged, made up of those who criticise the officials' correct decisions.
While a Clasico storm brewed ahead of the sides' Champions League semi-final meeting days later and Guardiola went on to hit back with his famous press-room rant, Madrid's Sergio Ramos famously dropped the cup from the top of the team's open-top bus and Lionel Messi sobbed disconsolately in the dressing room.
On Wednesday, back at Mestalla, the two teams now meet again in their seventh Clasico final in the Copa del Rey. So what will happen this time?
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