When reaching the final is only the start

Atlético will play Real Madrid for the King’s Cup; the only question is where

Atletico Madrid's Colombian forward Radamel Falcao reacts during the Copa del Rey semifinal second leg in Seville.
Atletico Madrid's Colombian forward Radamel Falcao reacts during the Copa del Rey semifinal second leg in Seville. Jorge Guerrero (AFP)

This week’s King’s Cup semifinal matches ended amid acrimonious scenes at Sevilla’s Sánchez Pizjuán stadium, with several of the home players trying to kick chunks out of Atlético Madrid’s Diego Costa. The 2-2 tie on the night meant Sevilla went out 4-3 on aggregate after losing the first leg in Madrid.

But the qualification of the capital’s second-biggest club for the grand final of Spanish soccer was the cue to start an almighty row about where the big match between Real Madrid and Atlético should be played.

The argument is already being played out in workplaces, bars and on internet chat forums, while club presidents funnel their preferences through the media. Eventually, it will have to be decided on by the RFEF soccer federation, which will have to take into consideration the preferences of the teams involved, and of those clubs which have not qualified but either do, or do not, want to host the May 18 showdown.

Atlético Madrid is invoking a little-known gentlemen's agreement which says derby finals should alternate

It is a by-now familiar dilemma. Last season, with no Madrid clubs involved, Real appeared to hide behind the pretext of renovation work in declaring the Bernabéu unavailable for the Barcelona-Athletic Bilbao final. In the end, the Catalan club prevailed over the all-Basque team in Atlético’s Calderón ground, sparing Real fans and managers the ignominy of seeing its loathed rival celebrating on the hallowed Bernabéu turf.

This year Atlético wants to host the final again, with club president Enrique Cerezo invoking a little-known gentlemen’s agreement that finals between the two Madrid teams should alternate between the capital’s two biggest stadiums. The last time such a final occurred, it was played in the Bernabéu.

Real will argue that its stadium is by far the better equipped to host such an occasion. The Bernabéu holds 85,000 spectators and has media facilities which are little short of luxurious. Huddled next to the Manzanares river, the Vicente Calderón has definitely seen better days (the club has been planning to move for years), and its capacity is lower: 55,000.

If there is no agreement between the clubs on a Madrid venue, Real is rumored to have its heart set on a potentially triumphant return to Barcelona’s Camp Nou, where it sealed its qualification with a thumping 1-3 win on Tuesday night. Barça may be saved having to hastily bring in the painters, however, as it has the handier excuse that it is due to play Valladolid that same weekend. All of which may play into cash-strapped Valencia’s more willing hands; it is due to play away that weekend and its old Mestalla has regularly been used as a neutral venue.

Let the bidding game begin!

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