Real Madrid’s bid to reach their first Copa del Rey final since 2004 started with aplomb on Wednesday night as a mesmeric run and finish by Frenchman Karim Benzema meant the Whites exited the Sanchez Pijuan caldron in Seville with a crucial semi-final first leg lead.
A 17th minute effort from the former Lyon forward means Jose Mourinho’s men take a precious away goal advantage back to the return meeting at the Santiago Bernabeu on February 3. Sevilla’s hostile and intimidating home crowd was the only ammunition they exuded on the night, as a stubborn Madrid controlled large parts of the match and were good value for their win. Benzema’s second goal in consecutive outings comes as the controversial £30m signing looks to be finally developing a new lease of life in the Spanish capital. With the official arrival of Manchester City forward Emmanuel Adebayor on loan from now until the end of the season, the 23-year-old might be sensing his last chance to impress in the famous white jersey.
But Mourinho’s assistant coach and former Whites player Aitor Karanka heaped praise on the French international after the game. He said: “We’ve
Meanwhile, Real Madrid President Florentino Perez welcomed Adebayor, 26, to the Bernabeu this week in a move which many say is more of a stop-gap move, rather than a long-term acquisition. Perez’s well known spending pedigree at his beloved club has been widely documented in years gone by, but the 63-year-old who initiated the ‘Galactico’ culture remained adamant not to open Madrid’s chequebook again this season.
The ex-Togo international has secured a weighty salary in Spain, and will give an extra option to Mourinho with the club’s present shortage of firepower, but it is widely suggested the Portuguese wants to bring in personnel he has previously worked in the summer with to supplement the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain as he plots the direction in which to take his team over the course of his four-year contract. This does suggest that despite any possible success this season, the striking duo of Benzema and Adebayor could well be on borrowed time. Inter Milan forward Gabriel Milito, the man who fired Mourinho to his second Champions League crown, could be in line for a move to Madrid.
On Sunday night, Real Madrid travel to Irunea-Pamploma to take on Osasuna. Coached by Jose Antonio Camacho (the one-time Los Blancos left-back who clocked up over 400 appearances in a whites jersey and even managed the club during a short ill-fated spell in 2004), the 55-year-old will be determined to take a share of the spoils against his former employers. The Reyno de Navarra outfit currently lie in 17th position in the La Liga table, and are just one point off the relegation zone.
Real Madrid are likely to start Adebayor on the bench in a notoriously difficult Primera Division fixture, but one of which provided a memorable moment three years ago. At the back end of the 2007-2008 campaign, Los Blancos battled back from a goal down to score two goals in the last ten minutes to secure the La Liga title amid dramatic post-match scenes of celebration. Higuain’s late winner cannot be repeated this weekend due to injury, but Madrid will be hoping memories of their last championship win can act as a lucky omen as they continue to chase pace setters Barcelona at the top of the La Liga summit.