Madrid welcomes from this Thursday to Sunday the strangest King’s Cup ever, marked by a pandemic that for the first time will deprive the tournament of the traditional atmosphere of fans and will empty the stands of a WiZink Center in which, however, what will not be lacking is the emotion at one of the most even and open editions of recent years.
Real Madrid Y Barcelona have lifted the title in the last twelve editions and are once again in all pools, so the other six participants will try to end said bicephaly, with Baskonia Y Valencia as teams with more options to unseat them, as reflected in the previous survey of coaches not classified for the Copa del Rey.
With the precedent that was the success of the final phase of the League played in the bubble of Valencia, the ACB will once again take extreme precautions to avoid contagion of covid-19. Players will be PCR tested before and during the tournament and an exhaustive protocol has been established that contemplates that if one or two positives are detected in a squad, the affected players will be set aside and the game can be played.
In the event that there were more than three previous infections in the same club, it would be considered an outbreak and the team would be separated and replaced by the next classified as of January 10, UCAM Murcia, with BAXI Manresa in the bedroom in case there would be a second outbreak. If this happened with the competition already started, the affected team would be directly eliminated.
They arrive at the appointment a handful of teams in great shape -although the majority are overloaded with matches and with several players touched- and others who, although in theory they start at a disadvantage, could give some surprise in such a short competition and in which any mistake leaves you out of the game at the first change.
Although it continues current host’s curse, for which since 2002 no team has managed to lift the trophy at home, Real Madrid part one more year among the favorites. The current champion leads the Endesa League with a single stumble in twenty-one rounds and remains fourth in the Euroleague despite the injuries and fatigue he has accumulated in recent weeks, his great handicap for a tournament with these characteristics, in which the champion must overcome three tough tests in just four days.
His first rival will be Thursday the rocky Valencia Basket by Jaume Ponsarnau, who is also completing a great season and will have several absences. He arrives in Madrid after adding his twelfth victory in a row in the ACB (his third best streak) and managing to knock down the almighty CSKA in his last commitment in the maximum continental competition, where he still has options to go to the quarterfinals.
On paper, Thursday’s tie between whites and taronjas is presented as the most balanced. Previously, two other rivals who arrive very fit will open the Cup. A Lenovo Tenerife that is being one of the sensations of the season and that, thanks in part to the excellent performance of the Marcelinho Huertas-Gio Shermadini connection, competes as seed, and a San Pablo Burgos that debuts in the tournament with the Morale through the roof after winning the FIBA Intercontinental Cup last Saturday.
On Friday the draw produced two other high voltage crossings. Hostilities will break with a TD Systems Baskonia that won the last League, always aspires to everything and comes loaded with morale after overwhelming Real Madrid on Friday in the Euroleague, and a Joventut de Badalona with nothing to lose who earned their presence in their own merits the appointment of Madrid and that is fully complying with both the ACB and the Eurocup. Both return to the Cup after a year of absence and on the same stage.
The clash on the most unequal role will close the quarterfinals, the one that measures the powerful Barça of Sarunas Jasikevius, leader of the Euroleague, and a Unicaja mired in a deep crisis after a streak of ten consecutive defeats between ACB and Eurocopa that stopped the Sunday in Fuenlabrada and that previously cost Luis Casimiro his job, replaced on the bench by the Greek Fotis Katsikaris.
The azulgranas start as favorites by squad and by career this season, although they should not be trusted before the current runner-up of the tournament, with evident deficiencies in his inner game and players lacking confidence but capable of surprising anyone if his exteriors have a good afternoon.
The emotion is served in a Copa del Rey marked by the pandemic and orphaned by fans in the stands, but which can be seen in 115 countries and territories on four continents.