Sergio Ramos has been out of action since April 30 when he came inches away from leading Real Madrid to a gargantuan comeback against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League. The Spanish defender scored a late goal in that match but ended the night on the losing side with as much pain on his body as in his heart.
Since then, Ramos has missed Real Madrid’s insignificant league games against Real Valladolid, Malaga and Espanyol respectively. According to speculations from the Spanish media, the player is keen to take part in Friday’s Copa del Rey final despite lacking match fitness. Two years after mistakenly dropping the 2011 Spanish Cup title on the ground during the parade, Sergio Ramos will be hoping to lift the cup at the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of the 90 minutes.
The defender, who has scored the last goal of El Clasico to date, will reportedly be supported at the back by Raul Albiol. However, according to a poll conducted by Marca.com, 55.3 per cent of fans want Portugal’s Pepe to fill the gap created by the absence of France’s 19-year-old brilliant chap, Raphael Varane.
For Mourinho, winning the 2013 Copa del Rey title is a must. The outspoken 50-year-old manager is under scrutiny following his decision to demote veteran goalkeeper Iker Casillas to the bench.
Mourinho was expected to offer Real Madrid La Decima and after failing to do so, it appears he will quit the Santiago Bernabeu this summer. However, before leaving, he has a debt to pay in the form of Spanish Cup glory. And who can underestimate Jose Mourinho’s ability to do so?
The Portuguese is a cup final expert. He has tasted glory in the Taça de Portugal, the English FA Cup, the Coppa Italia and the Copa del Rey. Each of his glorious finals were marked by a particular result: 1-0.
The Special One’s last only Spanish Cup final so far happened at the Mestalla Stadium as an extra-time winner from fellow countryman Cristiano Ronaldo gunned down FC Barcelona. Looking at Atletico Madrid’s goal scoring instinct and Real Madrid’s devastating form at the Santiago Bernabeu, the public on Friday may witness more than one goal this time round.
In any case, if Real Madrid score first, this 1-0 stastic would offer Los Blancos a great boost in confidence to hang on and become Spanish Cup champions at Atletico's expense.
Iker Casillas has proven his great record in penalty shootouts with Spain and it would be logic for him to make a much-anticipated appearance, as a substitute at least, should Friday’s final go to extra-time. Almost 40 years ago, Real Madrid lifted the Copa del Rey against Atletico and the captain at the time, goal scorer Amancio Amaro Varela, had the honour of lifting the trophy after the final whistle.
Since succeeding Raul as skipper, Iker Casillas has lifted six trophies. Incredibly, he has very few chances of lifting a seventh title with the armband should Real Madrid defeat Atletico on May 17. During the 2013 Copa del Rey final, the two-time European Championship winner will likely be nothing more than a spectator seated on the bench.
This will be the very first time in the history of the club that a captain commence a match as a substitute. How will this impact the confidence of the two teams involved?
Atletico Madrid’s strength in cup finals cannot be written off. Since 2010, Rojiblancos glitter with glory. They beat Fulham to win the 2010 UEFA Europa League and repeated that feat in 2012 at Athletic Bilbao’s expense. The UEFA Super Cup final against Chelsea last year was a similarly enjoyable affair as they triumphed 4-1.
This saw them match their 2010 UEFA Super Cup triumph against Internazionale. The only time Atletico Madrid suffered defeat in a cup final since 2010 was in the Copa del Rey. That year, they were overpowered by Sevilla at the Camp Nou. This Friday, the Rojiblancos will participate in their sixth cup final in three years. Lifting the spirit of 1992 – when Atletico defeated Real 2-0 at the Bernabeu to win the King's Cup – will be key for Diego Simeone’s side to leave Supercopa de Espana champions Real Madrid without silverware in 2013.
Radamel Falcao is on his way to Monaco, if transfer reports are true. The Colombian could be playing in his very last cup final with Atletico Madrid. He shined with a brace against Bilbao in last year's Europa League final. He followed up on that feat with a hat-trick against Chelsea in the 2012 UEFA Super Cup. There is no question about Radamel Falcao’s influence in big matches. Interestingly, he is yet to shine in a Madrid derby. The 2013 Copa del Rey final might well be his moment and last chance to do so.
Atletico Madrid have another weapon that could mark the game when Real Madrid’s defenders will be busy taking care of Radamel Falcao. Diego Costa is that special player to watch. With seven strikes, he is ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2013 Copa del Rey goal scoring chart. He has scored in every single round and now the final is his ultimate challenge.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid have managed to find the back of the net in each of their last 19 Spanish Cup fixtures. This run began in January 2011, coincidentally, in a 3-1 quarter-final victory at home to Atletico Madrid.
In this season’s tournament, Los Blancos have netted 19 goals – six of which are in Ronaldo’s name. They have also conceded six goals but only one of those occured at the Santiago Bernabeu; it was in the 1-1 draw against Barcelona in the semi-finals. Cesc Fabregas was the goal scorer.
On Tuesday, Real Madrid’s club captains organized a lunch at Filandon restaurant near El Pardo. It was an idea by Casillas and company to inject positive vibes in the air in spite of all the reported dressing room quarrels. Jose Mourinho and the entirety of the Real Madrid coaching staff were not present. While kick-off is just moments away, we present you some outstanding comments in the build-up to the game.
Cristiano Ronaldo: “Just because the Bernabéu is split in half isn't going to crush our ambition to win this cup. […] On Friday, I hope that the team bus gets a reception similar to the one we got against Borussia Dortmund.”
Paulo Futre: “The final could be the pay-back for all the kids who have not seen the team defeat Real Madrid for 14 years. [...] In the week ahead of a Madrid derby I would put a photo of [ex-Real Madrid goalkeeper] Paco Buyo in the bathroom, so that when I went to bed and got up I would see him and think about scoring past him.”
Paco Buyo: “The [Real Madrid] dressing room is more united than ever. It's a good group and it will want to fight to win a title in the most important match of the year.”
Hugo Sanchez: “My prediction is 2-1 [for Real Madrid], with a Falcao goal for the 'Rojiblancos'. The Atleti players should work with psychologists [to win].”
Who will lift the 2013 Copa de Rey title? We invite you to predict the outcome of this match. Use the ‘comment’ tab to drop in your predictions.