Mestalla and La Cartuja favourites to host Copa del Rey final

Real Madrid are expected to veto any use of the Santiago Bernabéu, leaving stadiums in Valencia and Seville the primary options.

Athletic Club Bilbao and Barcelona secured their places in the final of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday night and much of the debate in Spain is now focused on which venue will host the prestigious game.

The Santiago Bernabéu, home of Real Madrid, was initially seen as the venue of choice for the RFEF. For both finalists and their fans, the central location of Madrid, the stadium capacity, along with excellent travel links to Bilbao and Barcelona, make it the most obvious choice.

However, various reports are circulating that Los Blancos supremo, Florentino Pérez, doesn't want a final between the Catalan and Basque sides hosted on their turf. Indeed, various excuses and reasons not to hold the Copa del Rey final at the Santiago Bernabéu, are already being put forth.

Mundo Deportivo speculates that Real Madrid will deny use of the Santiago Bernabéu, because the club wants to replace the playing surface towards the end of May. There's also a precedent, given the last time Barcelona and Athletic Club were set to face one another for the 2012 final, Real Madrid declined the use of their stadium and instead it was hosted at the Vicente Calderón home of Atlético Madrid. That venue has already been ruled out, as the stadium is already reserved for an AC/DC concert.

AS on the other hand, have suggested there's a more than viable 'get-out' for Real Madrid to deny hosting the final at their home. Real Madrid Castilla are pushing for promotion from the Segunda B and should they reach the play-off finals, they would prefer to use the Bernabéu themselves for this purpose. The second-legs of the play-off finals in the third-tier of Spanish football, take place on 30th and 31st May. The same weekend as the Copa del Rey final.

So with the Bernabéu seemingly off limits for this year's final, what are the alternative venues the RFEF can choose from for the Copa del Rey?

Two ideal choices would obviously be San Mamés and the Camp Nou, when it comes to capacities, however both have principally been ruled out, given the preference of the RFEF to host the final at a neutral stadium. Players and officials of the respective clubs don't seem to mind one way or the other, but the Spanish Federation don't want to appear showing any favouritism towards one or the other team.

A popular choice would be the Mestalla home of Valencia. This stadium hosted the final last season between Real Madrid and Barcelona, plus has benefited from extensive refurbishments over the last couple of years. It also hosted the 2009 final between Barcelona and Athletic Club.

The other alternative proposed is a stadium that doesn't see much footballing action, but was built with an Olympic bid in mind, La Cartuja in Seville. This stadium is certainly not lacking in quality and facilities, whilst it was also the venue for the 1999 and 2001 finals.

To excuse the pun, the 'final' decision won't be announced for another couple of weeks, whilst the RFEF explore their options, but given the reluctance of Real Madrid to cede use of the Bernabéu, it's looking like choices will be narrowed down to either the Mestalla or La Cartuja. Barcelona and Athletic Club have won the Copa del Rey and appeared in the final more times than any other teams in the history of the competition, whilst this will also be the the 8th final meeting between the Catalan and Basque giants in the final.

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