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The Copa del Rey dishes out its autumn rewards


Barcelona - Deportivo live

"For a side like us, this is as good as lifting the cup itself," said Formentera's keeper, Marcos Contreras, after knocking out Tudelano. For the third round in a row, they'd won their Copa del Rey tie on penalties. Now his dream was to be drawn with Barcelona, just as a Tudelano-supporting friend of mine had gone to the game saying: "If we go through, please let us get Real Madrid or Barça." This initial phase of the Copa is almost a competition in its own right, with the prize for those Segunda B or Tercera teams who come through it a potential meeting with a big name that has their town and their club up in lights for a few days.

How Friday's Copa del Rey fourth-round draw ended up.
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How Friday's Copa del Rey fourth-round draw ended up.FELIPE SEVILLANODIARIO AS

Copa dreams also come true at this stage of the season

Formentera didn't, as their penalty-hero had hoped, draw Barcelona; but they were paired with Sevilla, which isn't half bad either. Barça went to Hércules, Real to Cultural Leonesa and Atlético Madrid - who also very much count as the jackpot - to Guijuelo. Three excited clubs who'll already be sorting out temporary seating to up their capacity as they prepare for a real money-spinner. For some, after all, a tie like this is worth half their annual budget in one night: those long-awaited repairs can finally be done, the odd signing can be made, thoughts can turn to promotion... Copa dreams are made at this time of year, too.

Real Madrid were famously knocked out of the 2009/10 Copa del Rey by then third-tier outfit Alcorcón.
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Real Madrid were famously knocked out of the 2009/10 Copa del Rey by then third-tier outfit Alcorcón.Jesús Aguilera

Fewer shocks - but a party atmoshphere nonetheless 

And a while back, lower-league outfits could also entertain notions of a memorable act of giant-killing. But since it went back to two-legged ties, that's reserved for only the most exceptional circumstances, like the 'alcorconazo'. Even with such aims on the back burner, though, it's special enough having the chance to watch a top team run out on your patch, give the die-hards an occasion to savour and plump up your ground for those who won't want to miss the big event. The week in, week out routine of football at the usual level then returns; but for a short while, the club will have had a starring role in something truly exceptional.