They might not be getting paid, but Racing Santander's players are good value for money in the King's Cup this season. Languishing in Segunda B after a disastrous takeover, financial meltdown and relegation in two consecutive seasons, things are not very rosy at the former Primera fixture. So strapped is the club that the players endured a 13-hour bus ride from the northern coast to Almería but returned to Santander heroes and quarterfinalists again in a competition Racing has excelled in historically.
Two goals were sufficient to see off top-tier Almería, which rarely threatened to make much a fist of the match. Racing's reward is a lucrative gate against Real Sociedad. Having knocked out Sevilla and Almería, Racing's semifinal credentials are sound, with a potential semifinal against Barcelona up for grabs.
While one fairytale continued, another was cruelly ended at Espanyol's Cornellà stadium. Alcorcón, having won the first leg 1-0 was tied 2-2 with 10 minutes left and headed toward the last eight and a glamor rematch against Real Madrid, which it memorably beat 4-0 in the competition in 2009-10. However, two late goals for Español brought the Segunda side's cup run to a juddering halt.
On Thursday night, Barcelona completed the formality of qualification for the last eight, Leo Messi scoring twice (the second a dribbling wonder-goal, albeit a against a prone defense) in a 0-2 win at Getafe to round off a 6-0 aggregate victory. Finally, Real Sociedad got the better of Villarreal in a high-quality but low-scoring last-16 encounter, pinched by the Basque team with a 0-1 win at the Castellón club’s El Madrigal home.
The quarterfinal matches will be played in midweek over the next two weeks, with the semifinals following immediately after in the first two weeks of February. The final, a single-match affair at an as-yet unspecified venue, is not until April 19.
King's Cup quarterfinal draw: Espanyol-Real Madrid; Atlético-Athletic; Racing-Real Sociedad; Levante-Barcelona.