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Real's opponents that night were Deportivo de La Coruña. It was Real's 100th birthday and it had been set up for them. The federation had been lobbied to change the date of the final to make it coincide exactly with the centenary and to play it at the Bernabéu. In the end, the pressure proved too much. As the clock ticked towards midnight, it was the north stand of the stadium, packed with more than 20,000 Depor fans, that was singing "Happy birthday to you!" The rest of the ground had emptied. Depor were cup winners, the centenariazo completed, one of the great nights in Spanish football history.
Casillas will not be playing on Friday, but that memory remains for Real. Their opponents this time are city rivals Atlético and it was Atlético, not Real, who pushed for the Bernabéu to be the venue for the final – a final incidentally, moved to Friday so as not to clash with Saturday's Eurovision Song Contest. Real said they wanted to play at the Camp Nou and Atlético's president Enrique Cerezo initially insisted that, when it came to a city derby in the final, it was the Vicente Calderón's turn to host it. But he was soon persuaded that the Bernabéu had a bigger capacity, and that, besides, it could just be good for them.
Sure, Madrid will be at home, on a pitch they know and in a stadium with which they are familiar. But this time the ground will contain at least 30,000 Atlético fans. "And our fans will shout louder," says João Miranda. Even the royal box will be divided: King Juan Carlos is a Real fan while his son Felipe claims to support Atlético.
Besides, the last time these two sides met in the Copa del Rey final was at the Bernabéu in 1992, when Luis Aragonés harangued his players by picking up a bottle in the dressing room and proceeding to tell them, in less than polite language, that they should insert it in Real's backsides. It may not have been the bottle that did it but Atlético won the match.
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