x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Alcorcon's chance to slay the giants

A winter chill has enveloped the Catalan city which will affect the attendance and leave the players longing for next month's trip to Abu Dhabi.

Barcelona and Real Madrid both have home games in the domestic Copa del Rey tonight. Barca have reduced the price of their cheapest tickets to just ?9 (Dh48) for adults - a big difference compared to the ?80 nose bleed seats (they are so high up that your nose bleeds) for el clasico against Real Madrid later this month. Still, just 25,000 are expected at the Camp Nou - 40,000 less than came to see the inauguration of Zlatan Ibrahimovic - for the game against third level Cultural Leonesa.

A winter chill has enveloped the Catalan city which will affect the attendance and leave the players longing for next month's trip to Abu Dhabi. The contrast between the expected conditions and the -5C temperature Barca faced in Kazan last week has been noted by Guardiola who said that his team have to be prepared to play whatever the conditions. Barca will not take the blankets and balaclavas, which their players made great use of in Russia, to Abu Dhabi. And given that they already lead 2-0 from the first leg, they will not play a full first team tonight in the cup for what is expected to be a low key affair.

The contrast with Real could not be starker. They are also entertaining a team from the regional third level, yet they are expecting a full house at the Santiago Bernabeu for an intriguing game. Opponents Alcorcon, who come from an incongruous industrial satellite town just to the south of Madrid, beat their full strength neighbours 4-0 in the first leg. Many people in Alcorcon have only recently woken up to the fact that they have a local football team. AD Alcorcon were only founded in 1971 as the local population grew rapidly due to external and internal immigration attracted to the opportunities in booming Madrid.

Their victory over Real stunned Spanish football. It was Alcorcon's first game against a team from the Primera Liga and they destroyed them. Temporary stands had to be erected at their 3,000 capacity home to lift it to 4,500. Just as many away fans will crowd in the fourth tier of the Bernabeu tonight and hope that their side can survive the expected onslaught. Alcorcon have a four-goal cushion, but there will be many divided loyalties in the crowd as many people in Alcorcon support both teams. There are more Real Madrid members in Alcorcon (2,000) than AD Alcorcon socios (900).

The area will also be home to the new training facilities of Atletico Madrid. Like Getafe, Rayo Vallecano and Leganes, Alcorcon have to work hard to attract supporters with such feted giants on their doorstep. Despite charging just ?12 for seats, home crowds seldom trouble four figures, though 1,600 watched them draw 1-1 at Cacereno on Sunday. Other league opponents include the reserve teams of Real and their neighbours Atletico, Sporting Gijon and Racing Santander. Then there are expensive away trips to the Canary Islands, where Alcorcon play four league games including one against Tenerife's reserves.

Such trips are a drain on their annual budget of ?1.2m - the same as Cristiano Ronaldo alone earns in two months. Alcorcon have held their own and are sixth in the league. They finished a best ever third last season and only lost out on promotion to the second division in the play-off games to Real Union, the Basque team who also beat Real in the cup last season. In beating Real, Union showed that giants can be slayed. Alcorcon truly are the David about to fight Goliath, but they know that they will never have a better chance advance past the mighty Real Madrid than tonight.

@Email:amitten@thenational.ae