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Apr 11, 2006

Zaragoza cautious ahead of showdown with Espanyol

MADRID, April 11 (Reuters) - Real Zaragoza coach Victor Munoz has warned his side against overconfidence when they take on struggling Espanyol at the Bernabeu on Wednesday in a bid to win the King's Cup for the third time in six seasons.

Zaragoza, who beat Celta Vigo 3-1 in 2001 and overcame Real Madrid 3-2 in extra time in 2004, can take their haul to seven in total with victory over an Espanyol team battling to avoid relegation.

'It is great that people class us as the favourites but it is important we don't believe them because this would be negative and dangerous,' Munoz said.

Zaragoza earned their tag as favourites with some sparkling, goal-filled displays earlier in the competition.

They knocked out Primera Liga leaders Barcelona in the quarter-finals, scoring three times in five minutes in a 4-2 first leg victory, before winning 5-4 on aggregate.

Next they thumped Real Madrid 6-1 in the first leg of the semis and hung on in the Bernabeu to clinch a dramatic 6-5 aggregate win overall.

Zaragoza's form has dipped since reaching the final, however, and they have slipped to 11th in the Primera Liga.

With six games to go in the league, their best chance of a return to Europe rests in winning on Wednesday to claim a place in next season's UEFA Cup competition.

Munoz rested several players during Sunday's 1-1 draw in Sevilla and was treated to a superb goal from reserve striker Sergio Garcia.

Espanyol warmed up for the final with a 1-1 draw at home to Atletico Madrid which left them two points above the relegation zone in 15th place.

Espanyol striker Raul Tamudo believes reaching the Cup final has had a positive effect on the team.

'Football is strange sometimes. If we hadn't made the final our league position might have been worse now,' Tamudo was quoted as saying on the Marca website.

'Zaragoza are favourites to win but in a one-off game everyone is beatable, whoever they are.'

Although their league form has been unpredictable, Espanyol have reserved some of their best displays for the Cup, beating Getafe 4-3 in the last 16, Cadiz 4-0 in the quarter-finals and edging out Deportivo Coruna 2-1 in the semis.

Espanyol, three-times Cup winners, last won the tournament in 2000 when they beat Atletico 2-1.

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