Barca, Madrid on verge of making Copa de Rey final

Madrid, Feb 1 (AP) Barcelona and Real Madrid are on theverge of meeting in the Copa del Rey final for the first timein 21 years.

Both teams head into the return leg of the semifinalsWednesday holding the advantage. Record 25-time championBarcelona leads Almeria 5-0 before Wednesday''s game, andMadrid won 1-0 at defending champion Sevilla.

The domestic cup competition could be Madrid coach JoseMourinho''s only chance to win silverware this season and theclub''s first return to the final since 2004. That would bewelcome news after Madrid dropped seven points behind leaderBarcelona in the league.

"The team is in good shape, motivated to get to thefinal," Mourinho said Tuesday. "It''s been many years sinceMadrid reached it. We''re one game away from reaching it. Itwon''t be easy but we want to get to the final."

Madrid, which has won all 16 games played at the SantiagoBernabeu Stadium this season, hasn''t won any trophy for morethan two seasons. It won its 17th and last Copa del Rey in1993.

Mourinho left midfielders Fernando Gago, Sergio Canalesand Pedro Leon out of the squad, while the team is likely tobe without defender Pepe, who is nearly recovered from a leginjury.

Newly signed striker Emmanuel Adebayor is almost certainto play after making his debut as a substitute in Sunday''s 1-0league loss at Osasuna, a defeat that has made Madrid''s bidfor a first league trophy since 2008 even more challenging.

"January was a difficult month with us having played ninegames and while there are players who are used to that, thereare some that aren''t because in the past years Madrid has beeneliminated in the first round of the cup," the Portuguesecoach said. "The problem from a mental standpoint is it''s moretaxing to play twice a week."

The final is scheduled for April 20, four days after thepair meet in the league. The last time the two rivals met atthat stage was 1990, when Barcelona won 2-0.

Sevilla coach Gregorio Manzano included his two transfersignings in the team for the trip to the Spanish capital _Chile midfielder Gary Mendel and Croatia international IvanRakitic.

Regular goalkeeper Andres Palop was also left out infavor of Javi Varas.

"If everyone is saying that Madrid has lost its chance atwinning the league, which I don''t agree with, and that reachesthe locker room and they know there are only two titles leftto win, the cup and the Champions League, then their going towant to beat us," Manzano said. More (AP) AT

Please Wait while comments are loading...