Rayo Vallecano entertain Real Betis in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday night in their small Vallecas Stadium.
The side from the south of Madrid reached the last four of the tournament for the first time in over 50 years thanks to their win over Mallorca just a week ago, although coach Andoni Iraola knows what it is to reach this stage of the competition after taking second division Mirandes to the semis in 2020.
The club from the working-class neighborhood of Vallecas is currently eighth in La Liga after a magnificent first half to the season and although they have run out of steam in recent weeks, that is mainly because their squad is not built for the rigours of playing twice a week for a long period of time.
Rayo will be hoping that their players can repeat the high-energy pressing that has so far seen them lose just once in Vallecas all campaign, reports Xinhua.
Betis travel from Sevilla after hammering Real Sociedad 4-0 away from home in the quarter-finals and although they too saw their level drop at the weekend as they lost 2-0 at home to Villarreal, Manuel Pellegrini’s men will kick off as favorites.
Players such as Nabil Fekir, Sergio Canales and Juanmi are in excellent form and Betis also have the advantage of playing the return leg in three weeks in front of their fans in the Benito Villamarin Stadium and if they reach the final, it will be played in their home town of Seville.
The second semi-final on Thursday sees Athletic Club Bilbao at home to Valencia, with the Basque side full of confidence and looking for their third consecutive final after beating Real Madrid and Barcelona in the last two rounds.
Their chances received a boost on Monday when it was agreed that attendances at outdoor sporting events could increase from 75 percent to 85 percent capacity, which will increase the noise in the San Mames Stadium.
Athletic will be without Nico Williams, who injured a hamstring against Real Madrid, while the fact they only played their weekend league game on Monday, means they have less time to prepare than their rivals.
Adding extra ‘spice’ to the game is the fact that home coach Marcelino Garcia Toral led Valencia to the Copa in 2019 and there is no love lost between him and Valencia coach Jose Bordalas.