'Dream team' graduates aim for Copa success

April 14, 2008

MADRID, April 12 (Reuters) - Former Barcelona team mates Michael Laudrup and Ronald Koeman will be reunited on Wednesday when they lead out Getafe and Valencia respectively for the King's Cup final at the Vicente Calderon.

It's a competition they both know well, having collected winners medals together with Johan Cruyff's 'Dream team', when they helped Barca beat John Toshack's Real Madrid 2-0 in the 1990 edition.

In their first seasons in club management in Spain, they have steered their sides to the final, but both arrive for the fixture battered, bruised and in need of silverware, for completely different reasons.

Laudrup is on the brink of winning modest Getafe's first trophy, bringing them deserved recognition after a draining season of over-achievement. Koeman is looking to rescue something from a miserable campaign with Valencia, and hang on to his job.

Getafe carry the psychological scars of a heart-breaking exit from the UEFA Cup quarter-finals last Thursday, when a last-minute goal in extra-time denied them a famous victory over German giants Bayern Munich.

They reached the King's Cup final for the first time last season where they lost 1-0 to Sevilla, and are well aware that another impressive year could see them left empty-handed again.

'Football owes us one. This team deserves to win the cup,' Getafe midfielder Francisco Sousa said after Sunday's goalless draw with Real Zaragoza.

'This time we have learned to keep our feet on the ground and how to control the euphoria.'

Getafe have beaten Burgos, Levante, 2003 winners Real Mallorca and high-flying Racing Santander to reach their second consecutive final, playing attractive attacking football.

But two cup runs have taken their toll on the side lately. They have not won in seven matches in all competitions.

Laudrup has said that promising Argentine goalkeeper Oscar Ustari will play the final rather than his more experienced compatriot Roberto Abbondanzieri.

Defender Mario, midfielders Pablo Hernandez and Jaime Gavilan, and Nigeria striker Ikechukwu Uche are all out injured.

Koeman and six-times cup winners Valencia are nearing the end of a miserable Primera Liga season that could yet see them involved in the relegation battle with six games to go.

They lie 15th just five points above the bottom three.

A victory and a place in the UEFA Cup may be enough to save the under-fire Dutchman his job, with a club who have a squad built to compete in the Champions League and push for the league title.

Since replacing Quique Sanchez Flores at the beginning of November he has guided the side to just four wins in 21 league games.

His controversial decision to drop stalwarts David Albelda, Santiago Canizares and Miguel Angel Angulo won him few friends and the side's poor home form has had fans calling for his head.

But his counter-attacking tactics on the pitch have proved effective in the cup where they put out Real Union, Real Betis, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona to make the final.

'We have to try and forget about what has been happening in the league and enter the cup with a different dynamic,' midfielder Edu said after their 2-1 home defeat to Racing Santander on the weekend. It was their third loss in a row.

'We are in a delicate position but a cup win could help us to end the season on a high.'