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5 things to know about the Copa del Rey

December 16, 2013

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona all look to finish off lower-tier opponents in the second leg of the Copa del Rey.

Here are five things to know about this week’s matches in the round of 32:

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TOUGH TO CRACK

Real Madrid appears to be a shoo-in for the next round of the Copa del Rey, but it will first have to find a way to crack Olimpic Xativa’s staunch defense on Wednesday.

Madrid couldn’t do so in the first leg and was held to a drab 0-0 draw by the third-division side.

Madrid is not the only team that has failed to score on Olimpic. Its last nine opponents have all come up empty, and now the little team will try to make history by pulling off the upset at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

One problem for Olimpic is that it has also failed to score in six of those nine defensive stands.

That, and it may face a much more intimidating Madrid side with Cristiano Ronaldo recovered from a hamstring pull and looking to score again after being denied in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Osasuna.

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CHEAP SEATS

Only the most delusional Sant Andreu fanatic could see the third-tier side overcoming the 4-0 drubbing Atletico Madrid dealt it in their first meeting.

That’s partly why Atletico has decided to fight any risk of absenteeism among its home fans by slashing the ticket prices, in a move that also benefits Spain’s vast numbers of unemployed.

Atletico is offering 5,000 tickets for 1 euro for anyone without a job living in the Spanish capital.

Otherwise, it is reducing prices to 5 euros for its club members while regular seats will cost 10-25 euros.

Unfortunately for Sant Andreu, the defending champions may stay true to coach Diego Simeone’s plan and once again field a top-notch side.

“We keep going forward game by game and based on that we have to get pumped for the game on Wednesday to finish off the cup tie,” Simeone said Sunday after his team won again to retain its joint share of the Spanish league lead with Barcelona.

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BARCELONA’S BACK

The first time Barcelona played Cartagena it was on a rare two-game losing streak. But after rallying for a 4-1 win over the third-division side it has rolled off two more wins to sit pretty once again.

“We have improved over the last three games, in every facet of play we have gotten better,” Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said.

With Lionel Messi nursing a hurt hamstring, Barcelona’s rebound has been thanks to Neymar and his five goals in his last two matches.

The Brazil striker may get a rest on Tuesday against Cartagena at Camp Nou, letting Pedro Rodriguez and maybe even little-used forward Cristian Tello get starts.

Barcelona will be without Xavi Hernandez due to a muscle pull, while Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique will rest.

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AFTER DJUKIC

Valencia fired coach Miroslav Djukic on Monday, three days before the seven-time cup winner hosts Nastic Tarragona.

Valencia was held to a 0-0 draw at third-division Tarragona two weeks ago, and Djukic was finally doomed after Valencia’s 3-0 humbling at Atletico on Sunday.

Taking his place as interim coach will be Nico Estevez, previously the manager of Valencia’s youth team.

Valencia will be without top scorer Jonas after he received two yellow cards in the first leg.

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DANGER ZONE

Besides Valencia, there are other topflight teams in danger of an ignominious ousting.

Levante was the only first-division team to lose to a lower-division side in the opening leg, and now needs to fight back from a 1-0 deficit against Recreativo Huelva.

Real Sociedad, Getafe and Espanyol all drew their first legs and must be careful to take care of business at home.

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