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Barca, Real Madrid rivalry spills into Copa del Rey final

12 February 2016, 17:31

Madrid — The rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona has spilled into the Copa del Rey final, a match in which Madrid isn't even playing.

Barcelona will face Sevilla in the final in May, but the discussion in Spain is about whether Real Madrid will allow the game to be played at its Santiago Bernabeu Stadium or force officials to choose a different venue.

Barcelona and Sevilla want the match at the Bernabeu, which is the biggest neutral ground, and would generate greater revenue. But Real Madrid's past decisions, and silence on the issue so far, suggest it wants nothing to do with the final, in hope of avoiding the risk of seeing its biggest rival celebrating a title on its ground.

"We want to play in the biggest stadium possible, which will be good for our fans and for our rival's fans," Barcelona vice president Carles Vilarrubi said. "We want to play in the stadium which has the best conditions and best logistics for a game of this magnitude."

Madrid hasn't officially made any comments about the subject, neither opposing the game at the Bernabeu nor saying it wouldn't have a problem with it. It says there hasn't been any official request from the Spanish soccer federation asking to play the final at its venue.

Its clear most Real Madrid fans don't want to see Barcelona winning a trophy in their stadium again. It happened in 1997 in the Copa del Rey final against Real Betis. Barcelona supporters filled the Bernabeu wearing their team's colors, and players lifted the trophy with the club's hymn being played loudly through the stadium's speakers.

Also read: Only pride on the line for Neville's Valencia in Copa semis

It was the last Copa del Rey final at the Bernabeu. Real Madrid lost two other Copa finals there — to Atletico Madrid in 2013 and to Deportivo La Coruna in 2002. When Real Madrid and Barcelona met in the 2014 final, that was at Mestalla Stadium in Valencia.

"Real Madrid is scared of seeing Barcelona lift the trophy," outspoken former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart told local media. "If that's the reason, the club needs to say it, it needs to explain itself."

Last year, Madrid said the Bernabeu could not be used for the final between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao because renovation work was needed at the stadium.

If Madrid again denies a request to play at the Bernabeu, the final would likely happen at Atletico Madrid's Vicente Calderon Stadium, which isn't as modern and has a capacity of only 55,000, about 30,000 less than the Bernabeu. It could also take place at Mestalla again.

The Copa del Rey is Spain's second-most important tournament, after the Spanish league.

"The Copa final has to be played in a very big stadium so a greater number of fans can attend it, and I hope that this year it takes place at the Bernabeu," said Javier Tebas, president of the Spanish league. "But this is a decision that needs to be made by the clubs and I won't criticize it."

Meetings to discuss the final venue are expected to take place next week. The finalists will try to reach an agreement, and the Spanish federation then will make an official request to the stadium owner, which is not obligated to accept it.

Barcelona and the southern city of Seville are about the same distance from Madrid.

The date of the final also hasn't been determined. It was originally scheduled for May 21, but it could be changed if Sevilla makes it to the Europa League final on May 18.

The final is almost always in a neutral venue, but last year it took place at the Camp Nou even though Barcelona was involved, and in 2013 it was at the Bernabeu when Madrid faced Atletico.

Sevilla wants a neutral venue.

"I would rather play in China than at the Camp Nou," Sevilla coach Unai Emery said after his team drew with Celta Vigo on Thursday to advance to the final. "That would be like giving them another (Lionel) Messi. I hope it doesn't happen."

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- AP


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