Rocked by a shock defeat in La Liga, los Blancos aim to steady themselves quickly and reach the Copa final...
A place in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona is likely to be what’s on offer to Real Madrid and Sevilla when they kick-off the second semi-final at the Bernabeu on Wednesday evening. Unlike Barca’s tie, nothing is yet settled before this fixture, though los Blancos start as strong favourites after a 1-0 victory at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan a week ago.
Since that fixture, Jose Mourinho’s side have suffered a real body-blow in the league, going down 1-0 against Osasuna on Sunday night. If talk of Barca having opened up a decisive four-point advantage prior to that game may have been a little over-hyped, the league would certainly appear to be the Catalans’ to throw away now they have a seven mark cushion.
“Tomorrow is a new day. There will be another match and we will be there,” Mourinho explained optimistically to the media on Sunday night.
Silverware in knockout competition remains a distinct possibility for los Merengues, though. Still in the Champions League, Madrid will first focus on Wednesday’s Copa encounter against Sevilla. A Karim Benzema strike presently separates the sides, giving the capital side real hope that they can progress to the final, where they could potentially gain some measure of revenge against Barca.
If los Blancos have been a little unconvincing away from home, at the Bernabeu they have been imperious under Mourinho, winning every match they’ve played. On Wednesday they really need to bounce back and give their fans a lift, and the odds are in favour of them doing just that.
Route To Europe
Sevilla are a side also struggling to match their supporters’ expectations in the Primera Division, though these are not as lofty as those in Madrid. European football is anticipated at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan next season, though presently stationed eighth in the standings, it’s difficult to see such hopes being matched by way of a strong Liga finish.
The Copa del Rey offers los Nervionenses another way into the Europa League, and Gregorio Manzano’s side will be doubly determined to win the competition because they are the defending champions, having negotiated their way past Barcelona last term to life the trophy.
Repeating that feat presently looks unlikely. Sevilla’s strength is generally their home form, so after losing the first leg 1-0, their hopes look slim. Los Rojiblancos certainly pushed their opponents all the way last Wednesday night and were controversially denied a goal when Raul Albiol cleared off the line from Luis Fabiano. It was a decision so tight, even television replays were inconclusive.
If the character of the Sevilla side was being questioned previously, Saturday night’s encounter against Deportivo La Coruna should have silenced any critics as the Andalucians bounced back from 2-0 and 3-1 down to secure a draw against the Galicians, despite playing the final 30 minutes with only 10 men after Andres Palop had been dismissed.
Manzano will have to whip up similar enthusiasm if a remarkable recovery is to be achieved against Madrid.
Marcelo returns to the squad after flu, but Pepe, Gonzalo Higuain and Jerzy Dudek remain injury issues. Pedro Leon, Sergio Canales and Fernando Gago are all overlooked by Jose Mourinho.
Gregorio Manzano is taking his entire panel to Madrid aside from Tiberio Guarente, Ivica Dragutinovic and Arouna Kone miss out due to injury. Andres Palop travels with the squad but is suspended, while Daniel Jimenez will probably start on the bench. New signings Ivan Rakitic and Gary Medel could debut.