With a return to England looking likely, Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho can go out a winner when his team meet city rivals Atletico Madrid tonight in the Copa del Rey final.
Luckily for Mourinho and Madrid, Atletico have been incapable of winning a Spanish capital derby so far this millennium. Atletico’s last victory over Real came in 1999. Since then, Madrid have won 19 times with Atletico managing only six draws.
Madrid can also count on the goalscoring prowess of Cristiano Ronaldo, who will go head-to-head with Atletico striker Radamel Falcao. Ronaldo headed home Madrid’s winner in the 2011 final against Barcelona. Falcao, meanwhile, has a knack of rising to the occasion, scoring to win two Europa League finals – for Atletico last year and Porto in 2011. “It’s a trophy that we are very excited to win,” Ronaldo said of the Copa del Rey. “We know it will be a hard-fought match against a rival of the same city and it will be quite a show for the fans.
“It’s a special match but my ambition is always the same, to help Real Madrid the best way I know how, by playing well, scoring goals, and setting up my team-mates.”
Ronaldo’s buoyant mood contrasts completely with Mourinho’s recent grumblings. In his third season at Madrid, Mourinho has turned his ire away from opposing coaches and referees and on to his own players. He started by benching Spain goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas and, most recently, mocked defender Pepe after he broke ranks and supported Casillas.
This together with Madrid’s loss of the league title to Barcelona, their failure to reach the Champions League final and Mourinho insisting that he is not “loved” in Spain like he is in the Premier League, means he should expect a noisy reception from the home fans at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where he has been jeered in recent matches. Nevertheless, Mourinho could lift the Copa del Rey as a consolation prize. If not, this season will be considered a complete flop for a club that boasts one of the most expensive squads in the world.