I enjoy the Copa del Rey. I enjoy it for the dramatic moments, like ties being chased in the second leg games. In the league, excitement is often postponed until the final few fixtures. In the cup, not a minute is wasted. Tonight in Vigo for example the match between Celta and Real Madrid is so finely poised that home fans have arranged to get together an hour and a half before kick-off to start cheering their side on. You couldn’t expect that kind of excitement in a city for a league game at this time of year. That’s what the cup brings to the table: Celta have the opportunity to knock out Madrid in their hands and from there the possibility of a first national title since winning the Copa in 2000-01.
And Madrid? Zinedine Zidane’s side arrive in Vigo with the weight of all their historical success on their shoulders -- and I hope that nobody thinks that a little excessive. Real Madrid are expected to win everything; they are thusly condemned. They are based in the capital, they have more money than everybody else and they have always attracted the best players from around the world (apart from Catalans, after Ricardo Zamora and Josep Samitier), or at least players that they considered to be the best. If they win they draw, if they draw they lose and if they lose it’s a scandal. Real travel to Vigo with that hanging over them and the 1-2 result from the first leg, which already gives them a small mountain to climb. For Madrid it would be practical at this stage to lose and take a rest, but that is inconceivable.
Celta rested nine players for their match in Anoeta at the weekend. Eduardo Berizzo prioritized today’s game and nobody would have done anything different in his position. Madrid didn’t do the same, they couldn’t, even if many people think that they should, with the deep and expensive squad they have. But they don’t, above all, because it is prohibited within the club to leave any one of their three fronts unmanned. That’s something I like about Madrid. They will travel to Vigo today without taking account of how many fresh legs there are on either side but in the full knowledge that the weight of history obliges them to fight to the whistle in every game and in every competition. On the other side of the halfway line they will face an excellent Celta side against the backdrop of the Copa.