Barcelona strolled into their 35th Copa del Rey final with a commanding 3-0 win over Almeria in the second leg of their semi-final on Wednesday night. Left-back Adriano and January signing Ibrahim Afellay scored their first goals for the club either side of a Thiago header. The three goals saw Guardiola’s men through 8-0 on aggregate and have set up a mouth-watering final against fierce rivals Real Madrid on April 20th.
However, with the final over two months away, midfielder Javier Mascherano has urged celebrations to be kept to a minimum: “There
A poll on the website of Spanish newspaper Marca has revealed that supporters of the Catalan giants want the final to be held at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, the home of their opponents. Barca play Real in La Liga just four days before the final but the practical reasons seem to be outweighed by the opportunity to win the trophy at the lair of their eternal rivals, an opportunity denied them in last season’s Champions League by a side led by the man who now occupies the Los Blancos dugout.
With no decision yet made on the final venue, Mascherano was keen to dampen the fires of passion that are ignited when the two Spanish giants meet: “It’s motivation enough to play in the Cup Final”, he said. “Who we play magnifies the occasion for the fans and the press and everybody is talking about it but we can’t think about that if we want to make sure we don’t have problems in the other competitions”.
Barca now turn their attention to Saturday night and, while their record-breaking feats have been well-documented this season, arguably one of the biggest in the club’s history could occur against Atletico Madrid when they aim to win their 16th straight league game. La Blaugrana’s weekend opponents have so far disappointed in their efforts to build on last season’s success but Mascherano insists that his team will have to be at their brilliant best to break the record: “Big teams (and Atletico are a big team) are more dangerous when they are hurt”, he said. “They have a great team with great players and they came into the season after winning the UEFA Cup and the European Super Cup against the World Club Cup champions. We must not underestimate them at all because they are bound to put in a good game against us.”
The players who were part of the Real Madrid team that set the previous record in 1960/61 were arguably some of the greatest players the game has ever known. By midnight on Saturday, Barcelona’s class of 2011 will hope to be immortalised in football folklore as one of the greatest sides of the modern era.