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Mar 1, 2013

Copa del Rey final row rumbles on

The two finalists for this season's Copa del Rey final were confirmed this week, but little else about the season's supposed showpiece event has yet been decided amid a bout of very typical Spanish 'morbo'.

Since Madrid qualified by beating Barcelona on Tuesday, and Atletico Madrid saw off Sevilla in Wednesday's second semi-final, a very typical row has broken out in the Madrid and Catalan media, with five potential venues and three possible dates still being considered and each side looking to gain an advantage where they can.

Speaking on Spanish radio station Cadena Ser on Wednesday night, Atletico president Enrique Cerezo remembered a deal struck decades ago with Madrid to alternate home venues when the clubs met in the final. As their last final meeting was at the Bernabeu in 1992 [Atletico won 2-0] then it logically should be at the Calderon this year, was his argument.

"It is true that there is an agreement for many years which says that when the two Madrid teams meet we take turns to host and the last meeting was at the Bernabeu," Cerezo said.

Madrid have let it be known they want a neutral venue, possibly as their record in finals played at the Bernabeu is not good, with the last time being the embarrassing 'Centenariazo' defeat to Deportivo La Coruna on the club's 100th anniversary in 2002.

"We have not chosen somewhere yet, but we would prefer a neutral ground with the biggest capacity possible," a Madrid source told El Pais. "In other cases there have been players who did not want to play it at home because of the pressure."

Madrid's suggestion sounds a lot like the Camp Nou, with its 99,000 capacity, but Catalan paper Mundo Deportivo was quick to remember that Tito Vilanova's side host Valladolid in La Liga that weekend, and the Camp Nou surface cannot take two games in quick succession. Other neutral venue options are Valencia's Mestalla and the little-used Estadio Cartuja in Seville.

The date of the game also remains up in the air. The final was provisionally fixed last summer for Saturday May 18, but Spanish national TV want that changed as it clashes with this year's Eurovision song contest.

Madrid reportedly want it played on the Friday [May 17] to give them an extra day to prepare for a possible appearance in the Champions League final at Wembley the following Wednesday. Atletico, knocked out of the Europa League recently, do not appear to have any strong feelings on that matter.

Madrid's case is not strengthened by the club's insistence last year that the Bernabeu was unavailable to host the 2012 final due to unavoidable maintenance work which included upgrading the stadium's toilet facilities. After a long wrangle, the game between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao was ultimately held at the Calderon, on May 25, a very late date which affected Spain's Euro 2012 preparations. Barca board spokesperson Toni Freixa's claim last year that it was always an "honour" to host the final has been gleefully recalled by the Madrid media this week.

Madrid mayor Ana Botella has also got involved, asking for the game to be played in the Spanish capital, helping Madrid's Olympics 2020 bid by showing the city can successfully host such a showpiece event. This year is also the 100th anniversary of the [not very powerful or well-known] Federacion Madrilena de Futbol, which sees an opportunity to celebrate its birthday in style. Spanish police also reportedly have concerns about large numbers of travelling fans meeting in another city.

The Federacion Espanola de Futbol [RFEF] have the final say on this, and another anonymous source told El Pais that the 85,000-seater Bernabeu looked the most likely venue.

"The federation can impose a venue, but it should not come to that," the source said. "The most logical is that the game is played in Madrid, because with the economic crisis fans should not be obliged to travel when the costs can be avoided. The Bernabeu, furthermore, is the most economically profitable for everyone."

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