The 2014 Copa del Rey final has been scheduled to help Barcelona and Real Madrid prepare for possible Champions League semifinals in the following weeks, and could see them play each other three times in just 13 days.
The timing of the final -- set for Wednesday April 16 at Valencia's Mestalla stadium -- brings back memories of 2011 when sides coached by Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola played four bitterly contested games in 18 days. Then the world watched in fascination as the relationship between the club’s players and fans soured.
The time and date was set after a three-hour long lunch meeting between officials of the two clubs and representatives of the Spanish FA in Madrid. The difficulties involved in playing late during Easter -- when many in Spain are on holiday -- were taken into account.
Madrid’s director of institutional relations Emilio Butragueno -- one of four Madrid figures at the meeting -- told his club’s website that having as much time as possible to prepare for potential Champions League semifinals had been the main concern.
"There was a criteria that weighed heavily in deciding the date," Butragueno said. "It is possible that Barcelona, Real Madrid, or both sides, could be playing in the semifinals of the Champions League. Therefore, the more days we have to prepare for this important game, the better."
Barca board spokesperson Javier Bordas -- a member of the three-man Blaugrana delegation who travelled to Madrid for the summit -- agreed that the requirements of Spain’s two big clubs had been met.
"The venue was clear -- and we chose a date which suited the two teams," Bordas said.
AS reports that despite the final being fixed for midweek the set of La Liga games scheduled for the following weekend [April 19-20 - gameweek 34] will be moved back to May 7 [and played in midweek between gameweeks 35 and 36]. These fixtures include Barcelona hosting Athletic Bilbao, Valladolid hosting Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid hosting Elche.
As Spain does not have a national stadium, such as Wembley in England, the Copa venue and timing is each year a subject of debate and often dispute. The 2011 Copa del Rey final was also played at Valencia’s Mestalla, with Cristiano Ronaldo heading an extra-time winner for Madrid against Barca.
In 2012 the decider between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao was played at Atletico Madrid's Estadio Vicente Calderon after Real Madrid made their Estadio Santiago Bernabeu unavailable. Last May's final did take place at the Bernabeu, with Atletico upsetting Mourinho's Madrid 2-1 in extra-time.