Dead rubbers, test of nerves in Copa del Rey

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 07, 2013 12:20 hrs

Madrid, Jan 7 (IANS) The busy month of January for Spanish football sides continues this week with the return legs of the fourth round of the Spanish Copa del Rey.

As happens all too often in a competition in which the ties are played both home and away, several of the return legs are virtually dead rubbers such as Barcelona's home game against second division Cordoba Thursday night, reports Xinhua.

Barca won 2-0 away from home and will use fringe players for the return leg in which David Villa and Alexis Sanchez will probably start.

Likewise there is little doubt who will go through between Sevilla and Mallorca after Sevilla won 5-0 in Mallorca before Christmas. Atletico Madrid will play against Getafe with a 3-0 first leg advantage while Valencia will host Osasuna after a 2-0 away win to the side currently rooted in the Primera Liga relegation zone.

Given the fact that Osasuna will entertain Real Madrid next weekend, it is very possible that Osasuna coach Jose Luis Mendilibar will not field his strongest side.

Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho will have to field a strong side when his team entertain Celta Vigo, as they look to overturn a 1-2 first leg defeat suffered in Vigo.

The only certainty is that Iker Casillas will start in goal as Antonio Adan will be suspended for seeing a straight red card in the league match at home to Real Sociedad Sunday, but with the league almost impossible for Madrid to win, the Spanish giants simply cannot afford to turn down the chance to win the country's knockout competition.

An exit at the hands of Celta, who performed well against Valladolid Sunday, would also do immense damage to Mourinho's credit at the club and leave them with the Champions League as the only goal for the campaign.

The remaining ties are well balanced as second division Las Palmas tied 1-1 to Betis in the first leg and third tier Eibar, who knocked Athletic Club Bilbao out of the last round, tied 1-1 with Malaga, knowing a tie against Barcelona would be their probable reward.

Finally Zaragoza will defend a 1-0 lead at home to Levante Wednesday night, but given Zaragoza's home form anything can happen.

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