Barca, Madrid on verge of making Copa de Rey final
Barcelona and Real Madrid are on the verge of meeting in the Copa del Rey final for the first time in 21 years.
Both teams head into the return leg of the semifinals Wednesday holding the advantage. Record 25-time champion Barcelona leads Almeria 5-0 before Wednesday's game, and Madrid won 1-0 at defending champion Sevilla.
The domestic cup competition could be Madrid coach Jose Mourinho's only chance to win silverware this season and the club's first return to the final since 2004. That would be welcome news after Madrid dropped seven points behind leader Barcelona in the league.
"The team is in good shape, motivated to get to the final," Mourinho said Tuesday. "It's been many years since Madrid reached it. We're one game away from reaching it. It won't be easy but we want to get to the final."
Madrid, which has won all 16 games played at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium this season, hasn't won any trophy for more than two seasons. It won its 17th - and last - Copa del Rey in 1993.
Mourinho left midfielders Fernando Gago, Sergio Canales and Pedro Leon out of the squad, while the team is likely to be without defender Pepe, who is nearly recovered from a leg injury.
Newly signed striker Emmanuel Adebayor is almost certain to play after making his debut as a substitute in Sunday's 1-0 league loss at Osasuna, a defeat that has made Madrid's bid for a first league trophy since 2008 even more challenging.
"January was a difficult month with us having played nine games and while there are players who are used to that, there are some that aren't because in the past years Madrid has been eliminated in the first round of the cup," the Portuguese coach said. "The problem from a mental standpoint is it's more taxing to play twice a week."
The final is scheduled for April 20 - four days after the pair meet in the league. The last time the two rivals met at that stage was 1990, when Barcelona won 2-0.
Sevilla coach Gregorio Manzano included his two transfer signings in the team for the trip to the Spanish capital - Chile midfielder Gary Mendel and Croatia international Ivan Rakitic. Regular goalkeeper Andres Palop was also left out in favor of Javi Varas.
"If everyone is saying that Madrid has lost its chance at winning the league, which I don't agree with, and that reaches the locker room and they know there are only two titles left to win - the cup and the Champions League - then their going to want to beat us," Manzano said.
Most of Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola's news conference Tuesday was directed by questions about a potential matchup with Madrid and the league race.
"We don't have time to think about what could happen, we can't stop. We'll rest four or five players this week because an international game is coming up and then the league and European matches come up," Guardiola said. "Thinking about the treble in January is a waste of time. So the objective is to keep competing and to keep working."
Barcelona defender Carles Puyol could be rested as well as Spain teammate Andres Iniesta, who has a left shoulder problem.
Almeria will count on Sofiane Feghouli for the match at the Juegos Mediterraneos Stadium after the French player arrived on-loan from Valencia on Monday.
Almeria also lost 8-0 at home to Barcelona in the league this season.