Villarreal nearly became a victim of the electricity of one off knockout cup formats against Orihuela. In previous years, drawing 1-1 with a smaller side on the road in the Copa Del Rey would not have been a big deal, because we would have had a home leg to look forward to and in all likelihood things would have sorted themselves out from there. Instead, we found ourselves nearly going to penalties and stressing much more than we would have wanted against a foe that should have been overmatched.
What I’d like to do is look at the pros and cons of the new cup formats in Spain, and hopefully get some feedback on readers on what you think. We’ll do this for both the Copa Del Rey itself and also the Supercopa de Espana.
Copa Del Rey
A big pro of this new Copa Del Rey tournament is the single leg ties. I cannot begin to tell you how many times in recent years I’ve seen a smaller club get a result in a first leg against a Barcelona other big club and not even feel excitement because you knew as soon as it went back to the Camp Nou or Wanda or Mestalla the small club insurrection was going to be put down with malice. A few La Liga teams have already seen themselves out of the tournament, a few others have come close, and clubs like Villarreal have to feel like their chances to lift this trophy are dramatically improved because if they get drawn against one of the big 3 in the league in an early round all they have to do is be better on the day. Another positive is that it reduces clutter in the January and February schedules because teams are playing fewer games. Hopefully this leads to fewer injuries and better football as a result.
There is some matchday revenue lost doing the tournament this way. In a world where so much of football is about cash grabs (more on that soon) it probably doesn’t hurt anything to not worry about match revenue too much but as it is instead of getting a home matchday and all the revenue that would come from that in the Orihuela tie Villarreal will simply have to go without. Not the end of the world but something to think about. That said, I do wish the matches when straight to penalties after 90 minutes. No one wants to play 120 minutes with league games right around the corner.
This Supercopa meant more than any I’ve seen in a long time. You could tell in the way the semi-final between Atletico and Barca was contested, and you could see it in the reaction of the Real Madrid players and coaches after the final whistle. This wasn’t an aggravating friendly that teams had to get out of the way before the real season started, these are games that meant something. Since the old Supercopa format was two-legged, and the Supercopa teams don’t drop into the Copa Del Rey until the round after the Supercopa ends, placing it midseason doesn’t add any real extra strain on the teams.
We mentioned cash grabs above. Why on earth does this need to be played in Saudi Arabia? I just do not understand that aspect for the life of me. I’m not entirely opposed to playing Spanish games on foreign soil but you would hope they would play it somewhere that at least views both women and human rights in general in the same way Spain (and Europe as a whole) does. Like the Copa Del Rey, above, I don’t see why we need extra time. Just go straight to penalties after the 90 minutes. I also do not think cards and bans should translate from this super cup to La Liga games, but that was a standard from the old system so I guess I cannot complain too much. One other thing. They didn’t pay all the participants the same. I know Barca and Real are the biggest clubs in the country but if anything Valencia as Copa winners should have been one of the two teams to get the most participation prize money. Otherwise, just pay all the clubs the same for participating, and then give bonuses for making the final and for winning.
Overall, I think both new cup formats are good for Spanish futbol. There is some tweaking to be done, rough edges to smooth out, but I think both changes add energy and enthusiasm to the competition that was there before, and despite Real Madrid winning the Supercopa I think long-term both these formats will make it easier for clubs other than Real and Barca to win trophies, which can only be good for clubs like our own Villarreal.
So what do you think? Do you like the changes? What should the RREF do differently?