The first day of COPA DEL REY

This week most countries organise their national cup competitions and Thursday marks the debut of maybe the most anticipated one in Europe, the Spanish Copa del Rey. As usual, the Spanish Cup has a Final Eight tournament format and this year will be hosted by the Palacio de Deportes Martin Carpena in Malaga. While the local favourites Unicaja start the tournament only on Friday, the first day still schedules two very exciting games for the fans.

The first game will be a clash between Barcelona and Valencia, two teams that represent the Spanish championship in the EuroLeague. Barcelona is having an amazing season so far and their objective is to win all competitions they participate in this year, so they are headed to Malaga with the thought of coming back with the trophy. They might need to play without Thomas Heurtel who got injured again in their last EuroLeague game against Milan and is questionable for the Cup, but Barca showed all season that they have a long bench with enough talent to win under any circumstances. Also, Barca won the last two editions of the Copa del Rey as underdogs, while this year they will go for the three-peat as favourites. Valencia meanwhile had a rough start in the Liga Endesa, but Jaume Ponsarnau’s side proved in the EuroLeague that they can beat anyone if they are focused. I expect to see a very competitive game, but I would bet on Barca to advance to the semifinal.

In the second quarterfinal, the team with the most Copa del Rey titles in history, Real Madrid will play against the revelation of the season in Spain, Bilbao. Alex Mumbru’s squad won 8 of their last 10 games in Liga Endesa and they are enjoying a fabulous comeback to the first league of Spanish basketball. While Bilbao will play without pressure, Real Madrid has a very experienced squad and I don’t see them having problems advancing.

Photo: Euroleague

Imre Halasz