Real Madrid will face arch-rivals Barcelona in the final of the Spanish Cup after both teams won the second legs of their semifinals on Wednesday.
Barcelona progressed first with a 3-0 win at struggling Almeria which sealed an 8-0 aggregate victory to surpass Athletic Bilbao's 34 final appearances.
Real then knocked out defending champions Sevilla with a 2-0 home win to extend their record to 37 finals, having taken a 1-0 advantage into the match.
Coach Jose Mourinho has the chance to end Real's 17-year trophy drought in the Copa del Rey as Madrid face Barca twice in the space of a week in April.
The final on April 20 comes just three days after the second scheduled La Liga "Clasico" between the two teams this season at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Real went down 5-0 in the first meeting at the Camp Nou on November 29, and trail Barcelona by seven points in the league after Sunday's defeat by Osasuna.
But Mourinho's men bounced back to beat 10-man Sevilla with second-half goals from Mesut Ozil and new signing Emmanuel Adebayor.
Real winger Angel Di Maria hit the post in the fifth minute, but Ozil finally broke the deadlock with eight to play as he rounded goalkeeper Jari Varas after a defense-splitting pass from fellow Germany midfielder Sami Khedira.
Sevilla had defender Sergio Sanchez sent off soon after for his second booking after a challenge on substitute Adebayor, who marked his home debut with a goal in the fourth minute of time added on.
The Togo international, signed on loan until the end of this season from English club Manchester City, controlled a cross from fellow replacement Lassana Diarra on his chest and smashed a volley into the net.
While Real can boast 17 cup wins and 19 runner-up finishes, Barcelona will be seeking to extend the Catalan club's record of 25 triumphs, with the last coming in 2009 against Bilbao.
With key players such as Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Gerard Pique and Pedro Rodriguez all rested at Almeria, Barca still cruised with goals from Adriano, Thiago Alcantara and Ibrahim Afellay.
Brazilian defender Adriano scored his first goal for the club in the 34th minute after cutting in from the left flank to slot home, while 10 minutes after halftime 19-year-old Thiago headed in a cross from the right by Dani Alves.
Dutch midfielder Ifellay then scored his first goal since joining from PSV Eindhoven at the start of last month in the 65th minute to kill off Almeria, who reached the last four for the first time.
Controversy surrounded Real Madrid’s semi-final tie against Sevilla and Los Nervionense feel they were robbed. So was the Barcelona vs Real Madrid Copa del Rey final meeting fixed in truth?
In the first leg of their semi-final fixture against Sevilla, Real Madrid imposed themselves thanks to Karim Benzema’s solitary strike. But was the Frenchman’s goal really the only one in the game? Well, Luis Fabiano appeared to have clinched an equalizer at a point in the game but the referee decided to disallow the goal.
Was the call a right one? Did Raul Albiol deserve all the credits for making such a crucial wonder-block? “Was it over” debates instantly hit the net and Live Soccer TV gives you another chance to look at the incident. See the video below of Luis Fabiano’s disallowed goal against Real Madrid and kindly share your opinion on LiveSoccerTV.com's official Facebook page. If you are not yet a member, 'Like' our page and join in the debate.
Something similar occurred on Wednesday night at the Santiago Bernabeu as the second leg got under way. Sevilla’s Negredo got a goal cancelled and the play-by-play commentary that featured on Goal.com India read:
“10’ – Alvaro Negredo manages to get through on goal for Sevilla and very smartly lobs Iker Casillas because but the Spaniard is very unlucky as he is wrongly flagged as offside.”
The tie was still very much undecided as Real Madrid were only holding a 1-0 advantage. But in the final 10 minutes of the match, Los Blancos found their way through with Mesut Özil and Emmanuel Adebayor’s scoring a goal each to round up their side’s 3-0 aggregate victory over Sevilla.
From there, it was impossible for the Nervionense to find a way back. Real Madrid had booked their tickets for a mouth-watering Copa del Rey final meeting against arch-rivals Barcelona. Expressing his disappointment at the officiating, beaten coach Gregorio Manzano spoke about Negredo’s goal which was wrongly ruled out for offside. The Sevilla boss was quoted as saying by Marca:
“We raised our level of performance as we hoped that we would open the scoring. He team did a great job by pushing the opposition to its limits.
“But to me, it seemed like Negredo’s goal was valid – and this could have changed the tie. The story could have been different.
“But it happened that we didn’t score a goal that stood and our opposition took advantage of that. Their second goal was only to secure the passage to the final.”
Actually, the Copa del Rey’s Barcelona vs Real Madrid final will not only present a special opportunity for football fans to enjoy yet another El Clasico encounter. For Barca supporters, it will be all about once again showing the Spanish giants who the master is. For Real Madrid, it will be a priceless opportunity – not only to win the Copa del Rey title for the first time since 1993, but to also take revenge on the Catalans for all the recent epic failures which they have suffered against them.
Above all, however, April's Barcelona vs Real Madrid Copa del Rey final will be a celebration of the beautiful game of football and this fixture should definitely boost the sport’s business in Spain like around the world. Certainly, a Barcelona-Sevilla cup final would never attract as much attention as an El Clasico meeting.
So is this one of the major reasons why controversial officiating seems to have helped Real Madrid to reach the Copa del Rey final? Do Sevilla only have themselves to blame for failing to reach the final or was their hard work not necessary in truth as the Barcelona vs Real Madrid cup clash may have been fixed anyways?