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Copa del Rey Preview: Real, Atletico vie for bragging rights

The Spanish capital will be a city divided on Friday when Real Madrid take on neighbours Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.

Both teams have been standout performers in La Liga this term, with Real certain to take second spot behind runaway champions Barcelona, while Atletico will finish in third place after a sterling campaign under Diego Simeone.

Much of their success has been down to the influence of star Colombian attacker Radamel Falcao, whose haul of 28 Primera Division goals accounted for almost half of the 62 Atletico scored.

It was Diego Costa who provided the attacking spark in Atletico’s two-legged semi-final win over Sevilla, although two of the three goals he scored in the 4-3 aggregate win came from the penalty spot.

Simeone’s team, Europa League champions under Quique Flores in 2009/10 and again with the Argentine at the helm last term, will be gunning for their first major domestic honour since they won the Copa del Rey in 1995/96, although they have been runners-up in the tournament twice since then.

Jose Mourinho’s Real, meanwhile, will be keen to collect for their first silverware since they took out the Spanish Supercopa last August in what seems likely to be the Portuguese tactician’s final game in charge.

A season that promised plenty for Real – retaining the Liga title and a 10th Champions League win being the most sought-after goals – has come down to a tussle with Atletico for the last trophy left to be won.

Real have won 18 Spanish Cups, with the most recent coming in 2010/11 when they defeated Barcelona 1-0 after extra-time.

Mourinho has an embarrassment of riches to choose from in the attacking third, with Cristiano Ronaldo chief among them.

Ronaldo has scored 34 league goals this term, but he has been well supported by the likes of Gonzalo Higuain (14 goals), Karim Benzema (10), Mesut Oezil (nine) and Angel Di Maria (seven).

In good news for Mourinho, Oezil looks to have overcome an ankle injury in time for the final, but Raphael Varane has been ruled out for the season with a serious knee problem.

Varane’s injury could provide a reprieve for Pepe, who has fallen out of favour after lashing out at Mourinho’s treatment of club captain Iker Casillas.

Wed 15 May, 2013
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