Copa del Rey Final : Valencia - Getafe Preview!!!!!
22:00 CET, Manzanares Stadium, 70,000 !!!
Overachieving Getafe and underperforming Valencia go head to head in Wednesday's Copa de Rey final at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid. The fact that the smaller of the two clubs, Getafe sold out their entire allocation of 21,500 tickets, while Valencia can't even give theirs away, tells the tale of the difference in the two club's seasons.
The contrast in fortunes between the coach's of these two spanish football clubs could not be starker: Michael Laudrup is currently the flavour of the month and being linked with the manager's job at Barcelona and Chelsea, while Ronald Koeman may well find himself out of a job in the summer and with significantly more limited options than the Dane.
Getafe have never won a major trophy in their history, yet go in to Wednesday's game against one of Europes biggest clubs after some impressive cup performances in the last couple of seasons.
The little club form the Madrid suburbs lost to Sevilla in last season's Copa del Rey final and this season have given a number of Europes' more famous clubs a run for their money: having seen off RSC Anderlecht, Tottenham Hotspur FC and SL Benfica in the UEFA cup before finally succumbing to Bayern Munich, on away goals, in the quarter finals last week. Even then, Laudrup's side managed to take the German giants to extra time, leading the match twice, and winning them many admirers for their team spirit and positive play.
Getafe were left a little shell-shocked following las Wednesday's exploits and tthey looked a little lethargic in the weekend 0-0 draw with Zaragoza. However, the Getafe president Angel Torres, believes that his club are fully recovered and ready to have another crack at cup glory. Torres said "We have recovered our morale for the final."
In reference to the their opponent's current form and off field distractions, Torres said "We certainly have more desire and confidence than Valencia."
It is not just in terms of confidence where Getafe contrast favourably with Valencia, but also in terms of a togetherness and team spirit that has been lacking at the Mestall for quite some time.
Because of their modest size, Getafe are perennially faced with the challenge of haemorrhaging key players (last season's top scorer Dani Guiza joined Mallorca in the summer and this season De la Red and Granero are set to depart) and seeing their coach's - Schuster last season and Quique Sanchez Flores the year before - snapped up by bigger clubs eager to transplant something of the clubs' spirit. Yet somehow Getafe always seem able to recover: proof that the team is greater than the sum of it's parts.
This team ethic is summed up by club captain David Belenguer, who told The Guardian that "Within this club there is an awareness the team is more important than anything else. We need people who work hard to improve their level but all with the common objective of achieving what is best for the team. We have established at a national and international level that if people come here they find a place where the group comes first and everyone swims in the same direction."
The man of the hour, Michael Laudrup, has tried to play down his sides position as favourites, something that they have yet to become accustomed to, attempted to highlight just how much his side has achieved against the odds. The Dane said " It can never be a failure to lose a final. Although, reaching a final is very nice and one always wants to win. This club does not have aims to win finals, their objective is to avoid relegation and get as far as they can in the UEFA Cup and Copa del Rey. Other teams have the aim of winning a title and are different. That is not the case for Getafe."
The same cannot be said of Valencia, where the fans expect to be, at the very least, competing for trophies -including the Champions League - if not winning them.
In contrast with the positive aura surrounding Getafe this season, the mood in Valencia could not be more different. A sacked coach, a presidential resignation and court battles with ostracised leading figures in the dressing room have all made for a pretty gloomy atmosphere a the Mestalla. In contast with Laudrup's rising star, Ronald Koeman has won just 10 of his 32 competitive fixtures since taking over and Valencia are now sitting just four points above the drop zone. Needless to say, the Dutch coach now faces the threat of being sacked, if his side fails to lift the trophy tomorrow.
As David Villa said today, "even winning the cup won't help change a rotten situation."
Valencia's interim president hardly gave his coach a resounding vote of confidence either, as he prepares for the cup final and, if anything, heaped further pressure on the under fire coach. Agustin Morera said: "Winning the cup is not going to mend Valencia' season. We are obliged to win the cup to bring some joy to our fans after a disastrous season."
Koeman could really do without his president telling him he is obliged to win the trophy.
If Koeman was expecting the support of his boss and and some kind of assurances from him ahead of a Valencia's biggest match of the season, then he would be very much mistaken: this Valencia after all and that is not how things are done at the Mestalla.
The Valencia president added, ominously, "I don't like how the team play but I am not the one who goes out onto the pitch and it is not my decision. We have been working on things for some time. There are decisions that have already been taken and they will not be changed whatever happens in the Copa del Rey. Valencia is a business and you cannot stop working or thinking about the future."
With that kind of talk, it would appear that Koeman's future at Valencia has already been decided and it is very hard to see the manager being able to inspire his troops in to going over the top for him one last time.
For that reason alone, Getafe must be considered favourites and if the way that this season has gone for both sides serves as a guide, then the mood at the Mestalla will be getting even darker before this week is over.
This Season: Valencia W11 D6 L15 / Getafe W11 D8 L13
Last Ten: Valencia W2 D3 L5 / Getafe W3 D5 L2
Previous encounters: Valencia 2 Getafe 1 / Valencia 0 Getafe 0
Team news is proving difficult to track down at the moment, with neither side yet to publically name their squads.
However, we know that both Gavilan and Uche are definitely missing for Getafe, while Koeman is conducting everything 'behind closed doors' and keeping things very close to his chest up until the last minute.
For what it's worth Marca claims that these are the probable line - ups:
Valencia: Hildebrand, Miguel, Albiol, Helguera, Moretti, Baraja, Marchena, Joaquín o Mata, Silva, Morientes & Villa.
Getafe: Ustari; Cortés, Belenguer, 'Cata' Díaz, Licht; Contra o Pablo Hernández, Casquero, De la Red, Granero; Manu & Albín.