Firstly, the two-legged snoozefests in the early rounds have been scrapped. “This clash must be played in Las Pistas,” he said. Real Madrid visited Las Pistas and won 3-1, but a small club’s decision to put principles before profit was the real story. There are only 754 people in Becerril but it was still a tremendous gesture. Se incluye la Copa de la Coronación y se hace mención de la Copa España Libre. Sevilla take two-goal advantage against holders Barca. Nor has it previously been inclusive enough to allow for the type of Cinderella stories that are relatively common in the Coupe de France. The widely accepted narrative seems to be that domestic cup competitions are in the doldrums. It has been a refreshing change to see the balance of power shifted to give smaller clubs a helping hand. Not only did the Copa feel as though it had been designed to protect big clubs and minimise the chance of upsets, but fixture congestion also became a problem. Athletic had also beaten Barcelona at San Mamés in the competition three years ago but their efforts ultimately went unrewarded as Barça turned the tie around in the second leg at Camp Nou. The day before what was the biggest game in their history by far, they also became the first Spanish club to sign up to Common Goal, committing to give 1% of their matchday income to charitable causes. Under the old system, there was always a second leg to come, when smaller teams who had won the first meeting were invariably brought back to earth with a bump. Clubs in the bottom half of La Liga invariably prioritised their fight for survival; and teams higher up the table found it difficult to combine European commitments with the elongated, two-legged Copa. Will we see Messi's name written in Chinese on his shirt for Real clash? The jubilant scenes that greeted the full-time whistle that night have been mirrored in small grounds up and down Spain. 24/01 at 20:01. Even though the Copa del Rey is the oldest football competition in Spain, predating La Liga by 26 years, it has never carried quite the same sense of tradition of the FA Cup. Unionistas play in Las Pistas, a tiny athletics stadium that sits beside a 17,000-seat stadium that is used by their local rivals. Even when smaller clubs have not acquitted themselves so well, they have still produced feelgood stories. Secondly, the number of clubs who are still in the tournament when the first top-flight teams enter has shot up from six to 75, giving a host of sides from the Tercera División the chance to test themselves against elite opponents – in many cases for the first time. Last season the round-of-16 was made up of 15 top-flight clubs and Sporting Gijón, who had only dropped down into the Segunda División a couple of years earlier. It has been a wonderful Copa del Rey so far and Spain’s much-maligned football federation deserves credit for having the foresight to make such sweeping changes. Whether an all-expenses-paid trip to the Ipurúa stadium really cheered him up is open to debate, but credit must go to the Eibar players who refrained from celebrating their late winner and went over to console the devastated Delgado instead. He was as good as his word. Holding the final at the Estadio La Cartuja in Seville is a questionable choice. There was no second chance this time. The shocks have kept coming, with all four quarter-finals going the way of the underdog. Barcelona to meet Real Madrid in Copa del Rey semi-finals, Benzema at the double as Real ease into Copa final four, Barca hit Sevilla for six to reach cup semi-finals, Real Madrid come from behind to take Copa lead over Girona, Sevilla take two-goal advantage against holders Barca. Eibar made a similar offer to Cacereño defender Alberto Delgado after his nightmare 93rd-minute own goal settled the clubs’ second-round meeting. Todos los campeones de la Copa de Rey desde 1902 hasta 2019. Two-legged ties, seeding and a format that ensured only 12 lower league sides would remain by the time top-flight clubs entered made it almost impossible for smaller clubs to progress to the latter rounds.
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