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Barcelona kick off Copa del Rey contest and annual complaints

La Liga Loca is going to move into Super Bowl territory and requisition a roman numeral to add depth and grandiose history to a blog that lacks both. It’s time for the annual Copa-Del-Rey-Could-Be-So-Much-Better IX diatribe. 

This year’s competition gets into gear with a solo match on Wednesday – a long story involving the World Club Cup – that sees third-tier Villanovense hosting Barcelona. In theory, that’s a tantalising ant vs Goliath clash that could produce a shock and headlines about dentists turning into overnight football phenomenons. But it won’t, as the Copa is two-legged in structure, and the opening round is fixed so the teams involved in European competition play the lowest-ranked sides that battled through the preliminary rounds. 

COPA DEL REY

Barcelona vs Villanovense

Real Madrid vs Cadiz

Valencia vs Barakaldo

Atletico Madrid vs Reus Deportiu

Sevilla vs UD Logroñés

Athletic Bilbao vs Linense

Tough upbringing

Once again, most people in Spain are calling for a change to a more dynamic FA Cup-style contest, to no avail. “I would like there to be just one game in the rounds,” said Luis Enrique, joining the fan club. But once again nothing will change, and nights out at the Camp Nou can be rather lucrative for lower-league clubs in tough financial times. 

Because there is a chance to correct any damage in a Camp Nou second leg, Enrique has opted to leave anyone who is any good behind – Neymar and Luis Suárez will be putting their collective feet up – and taking quite a few of the club’s youth players to be roughed up by lower-league journeymen looking for a chance to put in some meaty tackles against some quaking teenagers on national TV. 

Still, the night will still be a fun one for the town of Villanueva de la Serena and club president José Maria Tapia, who said that “this week, I have 1,500 new friends asking me for tickets”.

Mascher-oh no

Barcelona have had bigger fish to chew on at the moment awaiting news of the suspension handed out to Javier Mascherano. The Argentine was sent off for saying some rather unkind things to an assistant referee against Eibar at the weekend, but has somehow escaped with just a two-game ban – which conveniently means he'll be around for the Clásico.  

The official report noted that Mascherano referred to the “(bleep) of his mother”. TV images show that what the Barça stopper actually referred to was the (bleep) of his sister, a legal loophole that Barça’s increasingly busy legal team have been trying to exploit.

Enrique, for one, refused to get involved in the notion that the Powers That Be have it in for his side. “I focus on the realm of the players and what I can change and fix as the coach of the team,” he told the press on Tuesday ahead of the Copa clash. “Everything else forms part of the circus, and I can decide whether to participate or not. And I decide not to.” 

At least there are some characteristics of the Copa that will not change, to keep the blog’s cockles tickled pink. While it will take acts of enormous incompetence for a big team to be knocked out – hello Real Madrid vs Alcorcón in 2009 – there are some annual aspects of the competition that LLL is looking forward to. Namely, the excuses that Real Madrid will find this year – whether it be a pitch suddenly being relaid or bathrooms being upgraded – not to host the inevitable final between Barcelona and Atlético Madrid/Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu.  

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