A sideways look at Spanish football
It is estimated that around 10,000 fans had left Mestalla by half-time on Sunday night, with Valencia already 5-0 down against Real Madrid. Part of the battle for the east coast club is going to be getting those part-time, fair-weather fans back again for the two teams' third clash in eight days.
The final of this particular trilogy, one that LLL is desperately hoping finishes with greater drama and brevity than that Lord of the Rings business, is Wednesday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg – which Valencia are losing 2-0 after last Tuesday's defeat in the Santiago Bernabéu.
Ernesto Valverde is supremely optimistic that the Valencia fans will be back disgustedly waving hankies at the players and club president after another defeat. The home team manager notes sagely that “if they all left the other day it’s because they came in the first place, and that’s because of the good game we played in the Bernabéu.”
Mr Brightside: Ernesto Valverde
Another important factor to get the fans to return – aside from fresh memories of humiliation and the need for Valencia to score at least two and keep a clean sheet – is the stat that Real Madrid have now scored 17 goals in their last four visits to Mestalla. Roberto Soldado joining David Albelda on the sidelines probably isn't a fantastic omen either, so it’s no wonder Wednesday's Marca front page spooks that “the terror of Mestalla returns”.
If Real Madrid should progress as expected, despite football being a funny old game, then they will face either Málaga or Barcelona in a semi-final clash that will be of huge interest and intrigue if one club in particular goes through, but still worth watching if it ends up being Barça instead.
On Thursday at Málaga, Barcelona's bench will be bossed by Jordi Roura, what with Tito Vilanova away in New York receiving treatment for his illness. Roura claims that the game is a whopper, a ‘match ball’ even, “the first of the season and we need to win it.” Or possibly draw 2-2 and go through on penalties, corrects a pedantic LLL, the Camp Nou first leg having also been 2-2.
Earlier on Thursday, Atlético Madrid travel to Betis protecting a 2-0 lead, which should be enough to compensate for the fact that Falcao is out with a leg twang and Adrían may be leading the line instead.
Earlier than that, so early that it's on Wednesday, Sevilla host Zaragoza after a goalless first leg. In his week or so at the club, Unai Emery has already been a whirlwind of activity, and he's even had time to record a rousing advert to get the fans back on side after some sorry nights this season in the Sánchez Pizjuán.
The ad involves the terrifying Gary ‘Pitbull’ Medel singing his heart out in the stands, before Emery orders him back to training, telling him not to worry as the supporters won’t let the players down in the cup clash.
You won’t see that at the Emirates or Old Trafford any time soon.
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