Copa del Rey final: Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid

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This afternoon something pretty special is happening in the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are squaring off for the Copa del Rey title. Get excited.

The two capital clubs are meeting in the Spanish Cup final to see who’ll clinch the final piece of silverware up for grabs in Spain.

Passion, pride and commitment will be present in abundance as Jose Mourinho hopes to win at least one trophy this season.

While Radamel Falcao is spearheading Atletico’s charge — with the club from the Vicente Calderon stadium having the edge over their rivals historically — but the Colombian is increasingly linked with a move away from Madrid.

In the past the fierce rivals have met four times in the Cop del Rey final, with Atleti wining three times and Real prevailing just once. The ‘neutral’ venue tonight is of course Real Madrid’s home stadium but the atmosphere will be electric as 30,000 tickets were given to each club.

Real finished one place ahead of Atletico this season and beat their cross-city rivals on both occasions in league action, so this represents a chance for revenge for Atleti.

Will they get it? Wait and see, either way it’s going to get pretty feisty as the Spanish capital comes to a standstill. (3pm ET, ESPN)

What they’re saying…

Real Madrid

Sergio Ramos: “We know the rival that we face, it’s a great rival and a team that has brought out the best in each player this year since Simeone took over. It will be a really tough game with a title at stake. When you play on your pitch is a bonus on a personal level, but it’s fair because the stadium will be divided equally for the fans of both teams and I hope ours can enjoy it a little more.”

Xabi Alonso: “If we play a good match and are on form we’re going to have chances to win the match, but Atletico has a very competitive team that will face the match with the same determination as we do. It’s a fantastic opportunity for them and we can’t let them feel comfortable.”

Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone: “You try to convey the best feelings, but tomorrow is special for the players. I believe in the players and motivational reaches a point. It’s not good to over motivate them because it is a game and they have to play. Fear exists for both sides. I put myself in the place of Madrid and if they lose it’s complicated. Obviously all this exists for both sides is a nice finish.”

Radamel Falcao: “Real Madrid are favorites due to the budget they have and the kind of players but to us it does not bother us. We have faith in ourselves. What others say does not interest us. When you are playing its best to enjoy it. I believe in giving the best of myself and the team. In the end you will see the result.”

Prediction:  I think Real will win this one. It may not be easy, it won’t be a blowout but playing in their own stadium against their closest rivals is going to be a huge incentive for them to rub a trophy win in Atletico’s faces. Mourinho is the master of inspiring his side for a one-off game (although that skill alluded him somewhat in the Champions League semifinal) and they will be fired up to win. But Atletico have nothing to lose. They are expected to lose the final but they do have history on their side…and Falcao. The Colombian striker seems certain to leave the Spanish capital this summer, Chelsea, Monaco, Manchester United, take your pick. Wouldn’t scoring the winner against Real be the best way to say thanks to the fans before heading out? Not going to happen, 3-1 to Real Madrid in a cagey game.

Reina faces hearing over links with trio connected to mafia

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ROME (AP) Outgoing Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been summoned to a hearing at the Italian football federation over his association with people with links to the mafia.

Reina, along with Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica, is to face the FIGC’s disciplinary committee after an investigation by Naples’ anti-mafia department.

It is reportedly one of the reasons why Napoli decided not to renew Reina’s contract, with the former Liverpool goalkeeper set to move to AC Milan on a free transfer.

The FIGC says Reina “has had and continues to have inopportune association and friendship with Gabriele Esposito, Francesco Esposito and Giuseppe Esposito.” It adds that that includes holidays and “an exchange of favors.”

Cannavaro, who had two spells with Napoli, retired at Sassuolo last year. Aronica also spent several years at the southern club before joining Palermo in 2013.

Iran names initial squad for World Cup

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Jalal Hosseini and Vouria Ghaffouri have both been left off Iran’s provisional 24-man squad for the World Cup.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz did not say why Hosseini, a Persepolis defender, and Ghaffouri were not included.

There was space for midfielders Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi, however. Both played with Greek club Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv in August 2017. Iran does not recognize Israel and its supreme leader has threatened the country in the past. Both Shojaei and Hajsafi missed matches with the national team after the game.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh, a 24-year-old forward who plays in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, is also in the squad, which was announced Sunday.

In the midfield, Queiroz chose Saeid Ezatolahi, although the Amkar Perm player will miss the team’s first World Cup match because he was given a red card in a game against South Korea in qualifying.

Nottingham Forest midfielder Ashkan Dejagah was also chosen.

Goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh of Portuguese club Maritimo made the squad. His father, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, was Iran captain and goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Iran will play in Group B at the World Cup with Portugal, Spain and Morocco. The team will play warm-up matches in Turkey and Greece before heading to Russia.

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)

Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (KV Oostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al Saad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)

Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiakos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds FK), Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa)

Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiakos), Mahdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa Sports Club), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (SC Heerenveen)

Six Premier Leaguers named to Argentina, but no Icardi

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Argentina’s World Cup roster features a number of the usual suspects, particularly up front, but Serie A’s top goalscorer has been surprisingly left off the list of 23.

[ MORE: Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan ]

Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s squad was made official on Monday, which includes the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.

The Albiceleste won’t be taking Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi though, which has raised some questions about the decision.

Icardi led all scorers in Italy’s top flight this season, scoring 29 goals in 34 Serie A matches, while Paulo Dybala edged out the final striker spot in the Argentina squad.

Dybala is teammates with Higuain at Italian giants Juventus.

Meanwhile, six Premier League players were named into the South American nation’s squad, including goalkeepers Sergio Romero (Man United) and Willy Caballero (Chelsea), as well as Nicolas Otamendi (Man City), Marcos Rojo (Man United) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).

Men in Blazers POD: FA Cup recap, UCL final preview and more

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Rog and Davo recap a spite-fueled, snear-filled, peak Phil Jones FA Cup Final, preview this weekend’s Champions League tilt between Liverpool and Real Madrid and eulogize Big Sam… gone the opposite of too soon. Plus, World Cup rosters and MLS.

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