Football, and sport in general, would rather exist on the periphery of political turmoil but at certain points in time that just isn’t possible, and we are in such a moment here in Spain. So it’s more than likely we’ll witness some unpleasant episodes prior to kick-off in tonight’s Copa del Rey final – as we have done in recent years. But I hope less than in the most recent finals. From what we can gather, Barcelona’s huge, decorative banner will feature just their name, ‘Barça’ printed three times. And as they say in bullfighting circles: “When the bull enters the arena, everyone takes their seat”. So, as soon as the ball is kicked into play this evening, I hope we enjoy a fantastic Cup final, in a brand new stadium, which stages the event for the first time. Let's hope it's a big and happy party in celebration of our game.
Sevilla eyeing the Cup, and Europe
Sevilla are gritty, stubborn finalists. So far this century they have played – and won – the UEFA Cup/Europa League five times, and with tonight’s clash, appeared four times in the Copa del Rey final, winning two of the last three finals they’ve taken part in. They will be going into this one with supreme confidence and hopes high. They have had a tough season but certainly deserve credit. They went far in the Champions League but the price they paid for that was falling off the pace in LaLiga and now they find themselves struggling to make the last available European berth for next season. Tonight they have a chance to book their place in Europe via an alternative route but that will involve a task of mammoth proportions - beating Barcelona... Montella pulled off a masterstroke by pairing Nzonzi-Banega in midfield and surprised by successfully deploying Navas in an attacking, full-back role.
Barcelona with the chance to do the double
Sevilla arrived in Madrid last night after spending a few days, out of the spotlight and far from the Seville Fair, in Marbella. In contrast, Barça travel down to the capital this morning. If winning the Copa is a motivation for Sevilla, for Barça, it’s an obligation. After crashing out of the Champions League to Roma, you get the impression that winning LaLiga feels like a bit of a let-down and fans want the team to lift the Copa just in case Real Madrid go all the way in the Champions League – to be able to trump them with a domestic double. They will be going inot the game with a certain amount of fatigue - Valverde has relied on a handful of regulars who are starting to feel the strain – as we saw in Rome. But with LaLiga in the bag, they need just one last push to claim another piece of silverware. They are the runaway favourites with the bookies.