The big boys are back in the Copa Del Rey this week and the draw has conjured up some cracking ties that will get football romantics dreaming of an upset. On Wednesday night Real Madrid visit the seaside town of Cadiz, while Valencia and Sevilla both face long trips North to take on little known Barakaldo and UD Logroñés respectively. Atletico Madrid are in Catalonia to take on 3rd tier minnows Reus Deportiu while last season’s finalists Athletic Bilbao take on Linense at the picturesque Estadio Municipal de La Línea de la Concepción underneath the giant Rock of Gibraltar, which looms large over the small stands.
While all the ingredients are in place for a cracking night of cup action there are those who dismiss this round as an unnecessary nuisance and one that all the top sides will progress from without too much trouble. After all, even if any of the minnows can pull off shocks on Wednesday night, they will still have 90 difficult minutes away from home at a top flight ground to negotiate before they can truly claim to be giant-killers.
Last year the Copa del Rey 4th Round was an utter snooze-fest with no lower division sides making it through to the last 16. However we don’t have to look too far back for evidence that shocks can and do happen.
The Round of 32 has been a two-legged affair involving all 20 Primera Division clubs since the 2006-07 season and the seeding of the draw ensures that there are always David versus Goliath clashes. Although the chances of an upset over 180 minutes are clearly much reduced on what they are in a one-off match, this round has still thrown up some memorable cup shocks over the past 9 seasons.
Here are 5 of the biggest Copa del Rey 4th Round upsets since the current format was introduced in 2006:
WARNING – This article contains content that fans of Real Madrid may find upsetting.
Poli Ejido 6-1 Villarreal
1st Leg – Poli Ejido 5-0 Villarreal
2nd Leg – Villarreal 1-1 Poli Ejido
Villarreal may be well versed in upsetting bigger clubs than themselves in La Liga and Europe but in October 2008 the boot was firmly on the other foot. The Yellow Submarine, who had finished as runners up in the Primera Division the previous season and were unbeaten in 6 months in all competitions headed to Segunda B side Polideportivo Ejido for the 1st leg of their Copa del Rey 4th round tie expecting a comfortable win.
However a stunning performance from the Andalusians all but killed off the tie on the night. A brilliant hat-trick from Jorge Molina had the hosts 3-0 up before two late goals from French midfielder Gregory Laget sealed a famous 5-0 win and condemned Villarreal to the most humiliating defeat in their history.
While Molina would go on to forge a successful career with Real Betis, where he continues to play in the top flight, sadly there was no happy ending for Poli Ejido. They almost caused another shock in the next round, going out on away goals to top flight Espanyol but in some respects their stunnng Copa del Rey run masked other mounting problems at the club. It culminated in their expulsion from the Tercera Division midway through the 2011-12 season for failing to turn up for two matches and the club folded soon afterwards due to financial troubles.
Real Union 6-6 Real Madrid (Real Unión won on away goals)
1st Leg – Real Unión 3-2 Real Madrid
2nd Leg – Real Madrid 4-3 Real Unión
When defending Spanish Champions Real Madrid were paired with Real Unión Club de Irún nobody expected anything other than a comfortable progression for Los Blancos. However on a wet muddy night in the Basque Country, the 3rd tier minnows caused a huge upset by beating their illustrious opponents 3-2. Juan Dominguez was the hero with 2 goals for the hosts but Real Madrid, who scored through Javier Saviola and Gonzalo Higuain, were still firmly expected to go through especially with 2 away goals to their name.
In many ways, what happened at the Bernabeu was even more remarkable. Any hope that it would be a comforable night for the hosts, who had named a strong side, were banished when Paul Abasolo fired Union into a 1-0 lead inside 15 minutes. Raúl levelled for Madrid but Asier Salcedo restored the visitors two goal cushion on aggregate in the 49th minute.
With an upset firmly brewing, Los Blancos finally kicked into life and Raúl scored twice to complete his hat-trick with Alberto Bueno adding another to put Real Madrid 6-5 up on aggregate going into stoppage time. However incredibly there was one final twist as Eneko Romo headed a famous 91st minute goal, Real Union’s 3rd on the night to level it at 6-6 on aggregate and send the Basque club through on away goals.
Alcorcón 4-1 Real Madrid
1st Leg – Alcorcón 4-0 Real Madrid
2nd Leg – Real Madrid 1-0 Alcorcón
One year on from their humiliation against Real Union, Los Blancos now managed by Manuel Pellegrini were paired with Madrid rivals Alcorcón in the Copa del Rey 4th Round. In truth the term ‘rivals’ should be used loosely given at the time the underdogs had never been higher than the 3rd tier of Spanish football and much like Real Union nothing was expected from them.
However in the 1st Leg at the tiny Estadio Municipal de Santo Domingo on the outskirts of the Spanish capital, unfashionable Alcorcón enjoyed their finest hour and condemned their giant neighbours to arguably their worst ever result. A strong Real Madrid side that included the likes of Raúl, Guti and Karim Benzema were crushed 4-0 by a rampant Alcorcón with Borja Perez scoring twice.
Back at the Bernabeu in the 2nd Leg, Real never looked like overturning the huge deficit with Rafael Van der Vaart’s late goal nothing more than a consolation. Alcorcón were narrowly beaten in the next round but gained a real appetite for cup shocks, knocking out top flight clubs Zaragoza in 2012 and Granada two years later at the same stage. They are now an established Segunda Division side and hold dreams of making the top flight for the first time in their history in the coming years.
Albacete 3-1 Atletico Madrid
1st Leg – Albacete 2-1 Atletico Madrid
2nd Leg – Atletico Madrid 0-1 Albacete
Segunda B side Albacete took on top flight giants Atletico Madrid in the 4th Round of the 2011-12 Copa del Rey. A bad tempered 1st leg at the Estadio Carlos Belmonte saw both sides reduced to 10 men but the hosts triumph 2-1 although a 70th minute strike from Adrián had given the visitors an important away goal to take back to the Vicente Calderon.
Atleti lost their following two games in La Liga as well to pile the pressure on boss Gregorio Manzano ahead of the 2nd Leg and a game he simply had to win. With Diego Godin, Miranda, Gabi, Koke and Falcao all starting, the expectation was still of a comfortable progression for Atletico. However it took just 18 seconds for things to start going wrong as Victor Curto’s goal for the visitors almost straight from kick-off sent the away fans into raptures and left the home bench in despair. Despite all the talent on the pitch and having 90 minutes to get back into the tie, Atletico couldn’t find a breakthrough and succumbed to a 1-0 defeat on the night and a 3-1 aggregate loss, which left Manzano heading down the tunnel beneath a barrage of abuse from the home fans.
However Atletico’s cup shocker might be regarded as one of the biggest blessings in disguise of all time. The next day the beleaguered boss was relieved of his duties and within 24 hours he had been replaced by Diego Simeone and the rest as they say is history.
Eibar 1-1 Athletic Bilbao (Eibar won on Away Goals)
1st Leg – Eibar 0-0 Athletic Bilbao
2nd Leg – Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Eibar
Eibar may be a household name among fans of Spanish football now after their remarkable rise to the top flight, however flash back just 3 years and you’d have been forgiven for knowing absolutely nothing about the tiny Basque club.
The Copa del Rey 4th Round draw in the 2012-13 season paired them with local rivals Athletic Bilbao. Eibar, who were in the Segunda División B at the time held their opponents to a 0-0 draw at home in the 1st Leg even though the visitors had named a strong side with the likes of Ander Herrera and Fernando Llorente among their starters.
The tendency in the last 32 is that the smaller sides often manage to secure a draw with home advantage in the 1st leg but are outclassed 2nd time around and that was expected to be the fate of Eibar. However they failed to read the script and after 72 more goalless minutes at San Mames, the 3rd tier minnows won a penalty which Mikel Arruabarrena converted to give Eibar the lead in the tie and a priceless away goal. Aritz Aduriz scored late on for Athletic to set up a grandstand finish but Eibar’s defence held firm and hung on for a famous cup victory over their more illustrious neighbours.