Real starts Copa del Rey defense against minnows
MADRID - The Associated Press
Cristiano Ronaldo and co suffered another big defeat to Barcelona in a La Liga match on Dec 10. AFP photoReal Madrid’s first chance to exorcise the memory of its 3-1 defeat to Barcelona at the weekend comes with a visit to third-tier team Ponferradina in the Copa del Rey tonight.
“This is very welcome to us. For any club of our level, playing against Madrid is the best,” said Ponferradina president Jose Fernandez. “It’s also important economically. For us, it’s like a lottery win.”
Fernandez, who is a Real Madrid member, said he would be proud to watch his team play the nine-time European champion.
“It’s the rival we wanted,” he said. “Seeing Mourinho’s squad play in Ponferra will be a double reason for happiness.”
Madrid won the Copa del Rey by beating Barcelona in last year’s final with an extra-time header from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Barcelona has already played the first leg of its last-32 tie, winning 1-0 at Hospitalet last month.
Played over two legs until the final, the Copa del Rey is Spain’s premier domestic cup competition, but lacks the prestige of the top flight.
The Copa del Rey is also the only competition in which Jose Mourinho has managed to get the better of Barcelona as Madrid coach. Mourinho clung to the memory of that victory in the aftermath of yet another “clasico” defeat on Dec. 10 his fourth in seven matches against Pep Guardiola’s side.
“The match we won was a final and for me a final is worth more than this kind of game because the league continues and is not decided in one match,” Mourinho said.
The club based in Ponferra, in northwest Spain’s Bierzo region of Leon, was relegated from the second division last year after just one season and currently plays in the Second Division B - essentially the third tier of the pyramid.
Real’s visit will fill the Toralin Stadium and the club has boosted capacity by a couple hundred to 8,500 to take full advantage.