Madrid Opens Copa Del Rey Defense Vs 3rd-Tier Club

Madrid, Dec 12: Real 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 on Tuesday.“This
madrid opens copa del rey defense vs 3rd tier...
India TV News Desk December 12, 2011 18:27 IST

Madrid, Dec 12: Real 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 on Tuesday.

“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 and that's who we got,” 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 third-tier Hospitalet in November.

The tie was played early because of Barcelona's participation in the Club World Cup.

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 or European matches.

First division clubs enter at the last-32 stage.

Surprise results can still add spice, however, as Atletico Madrid found to its cost last week.

Starting its Copa del Rey campaign a week early because of Europa League commitments, Atletico went down 2-1 at another third-tier side, Albacete.

The result increased the pressure on Atletico's coach Gregorio Manzano, who acknowledged his side should have won.

“Clearly, given the difference in our respective divisions, Atletico was the favorite,” Manzano said.

“We have to accept this result and look to the 90 minutes we have in the Vicente Calderon to overturn it.”

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 Saturday—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.

A loss against Ponferradina would be a seismic shock, even if—as expected—Madrid fields a team of reserves and younger players.

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 Group 2 of the Second Division B - essentially the third tier of the Spanish football pyramid.

Ponferradina is going well so far this season—the club is second in its section and looks a good bet to finish in the top four and qualify for the end-of-season promotion playoffs.

Madrid's visit is expected to fill the Toralin Stadium and the club has boosted capacity by a couple hundred to 8,500 to take full advantage of the game.

Despite the excitement among supporters, coach Claudio Barragan was trying to keep his players focused ahead of the weekend's league match against Alaves.

“The players are thinking more about Alaves than about Real Madrid,” he said. Few believed him, but Ponferradina did come away with a confidence-boosting 1-0 win.

Other fixtures slated for Tuesday include Mirandes vs. Villarreal, Cadiz vs. Valencia, San Roque vs. Sevilla, Almeria vs. Osasuna, Alcorcon vs. Zaragoza, Celta Vigo vs. Espanyol, Deportivo La Coruna vs. Levante and Cordoba vs. Real Betis.

There are four all-first division ties, with Racing Santander playing Rayo Vallecano, Mallorca against Sporting Gijon, Real Sociedad taking on Granada and Getafe versus Malaga.

Like Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao started its Copa del Rey campaign last week, winning 1-0 at Real Oviedo.

All the return legs, including Barcelona's second match against Hospitalet, will be played next week.

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