Billions gather for Copa del Rey clash

A few days ago, AS wrote that 35,000 batty Basques would be making the trip down to Valencia for Wednesday’s Copa de Rey final.

Not the first time - and almost certainly not the last - the paper was quite wrong with its prediction. La Liga Loca’s own reliable sources - the hopeless cases who claimed last season that David Albeda had played his last game for Valencia - are murmuring that up to 45 million supporters from the unpronounceable lands of the north have made the trip to Mestalla by donkey, bike, car, bus, train, plane and boat. Unfortunately, only eight of those actually have tickets to see Spanish football’s big night. But it’s two more than the visiting Barcelona fans have got. In its attempts to model the tournament on the English FA Cup final, the Spanish authorities have decided to keep a good 99.99 percent of the tickets back so that federation suits along with families and friends and anyone who fancies buying their cast-offs for 500 euro can enjoy a nice night out. And because making a quick buck and Spanish football go hand-in-hand like La Liga Loca and Penelope Cruz, Mestalla should be jam-packed with thousands of less than royalist supporters all ready and willing to boo and barrack the national anthem and the King for good measure. “These are two teams that represent a very important social mass in their countries,” notes the independance-declaring King of Catalunya, Joan Laporta. So worried are the FA’s bigwigs at embarrassing catcalls aimed at the royal family that the stadium’s speaker system has been pimped up by a group of mullet-sporting ché chavs to such an extent that even readers in England will be able to hear the King’s theme tune being blasted out at chant-covering, bat-exploding volumes.

"Everybody say 'goodbye eardrums'"

Wednesday’s game will be the sixth cup final between the two teams, with the last being an explosive punch-up back in 1984.

With a bit of luck, there will be a repeat of the scintillating scenes that the BBC would be no doubt tut that no-one wants to see on a football pitch. Athletic manager Joaquín Caparrós is certainly promising some blood-and-guts on the night by declaring that “we’re going to play hard. We haven’t come here to pay tribute to anyone.” This is has caused panic in the ranks of the Catalan press who are calling for help - sorry, protection - from the referee Medina Cantalejo, a gentleman Pep Guardiola points out that “Caparrós knows well.”“We’re not asking for favours from anyone, but just that the referee applies the rules fairly,” writes the favour-asking Josep Casanovas in Sport. Mundo Deportivo, meanwhile, is maxing out its on-line survey software by asking its less Neanderthal-like readers to decide who is the better player between Xavi and Orbaiz or Messi and Yeste.Once again, the final encounter has again been jammed away at 10pm on a Wednesday night in a too-small stadium well before the end of the season and not as a showpiece campaign finale as the editorial in AS calls for. And once again, extra-time and penalties will see the clash finishing at around 1am. But this shouldn’t take anything away from a match that should be a lot of fun and well worth a cheeky punt on the 7-1 odds being given for an Athletic victory. It’s a final that some of the great names of Spanish football’s past have taken part in. Clubs that once were giants but now see their best days long gone, perhaps never return. Clubs like Arenas Guecho, Sabadell, Elche, Racing Ferroll and Real Madrid.

"They did say 10pm didn't they?"

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