Mirandés have done it again! After knocking out Celta and Sevilla, their latest scalp was Villarreal last night, eliminating the top-flight side to march into the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey. Their giant-killing reputation has been further cemented as they made the most of the one-game knockout format – the semis will take place over two legs. These thunderclaps Mirandés produce like nobody else give the kind of flavor to the cup that LaLiga is lacking, with its slow and steady development where it seems as if everything has a solution. Miranda de Ebro shone once again on Wednesday night, just as Granada had shone the night before against Valencia courtesy of two goals from Soldado that were worthy of a semi-final place.
Now we are left with two heavyweight quarter-finals, Real Madrid-Real Sociedad and Athletic-Barça. La Real travel to the Bernabéu spurred on by the very real prospect of winning a trophy if they can overcome their Madrid-sized obstacle (a large one, admittedly). If Barça crash out at San Mamés, not beyond the realms of possibility given the current state of confusion surrounding the club, La Real could be justified in thinking no other semi-finalist is a bigger force than they are – the reason for their rotations last Sunday. Today they will face Zidane’s side with a settled attacking three of Odegaard, Isak and Oyarzabal, and with the growing credibility of an attractive style and approach.
Zidane, Messi and Abidal
Zidane has not called up Hazard or Bale, and does not see the game as a chance to employ inactive players. A big concession, however, is leaving out Casemiro with a view to their trip to Osasuna at the weekend. That opens up the way for Vinicius, who is starting to grow in stature and become a threat to the opposition. As the curtain falls in the Bernabéu our attentions will turn to San Mamés and a Barcelona side in the midst of self-destruction, particularly after Messi's public criticism of Abidal for disclosing things from inside the club and for his accusations that some players (no names) were responsible for Valverde’s departure. Abidal seems to have lacked the bravery to take a decision that goes with the territory.