With the moment of truth finally here, Iker Casillas discussed how Real Madrid and its fans must stick together if they are to win their first title of the season.
You have always expressed your desire to win the Copa del Rey. What is reason behind it?
It is a very important trophy for Real Madrid and we cannot afford to not win it for 17 years. It will be even more important if we do win it. It is vital. I have not won it in the eleven years I have been here.
Seventeen years is a long wait. Does the team believe the time has come to win the Cup?
We believe it is time to win many trophies. We know it won’t be easy. It will be a great match between the two best teams in Spain. Anything can happen, but we are excited about our chances. We hope we can win the Cup.
The team must be even more motivated due to the fact that the other finalist is Barcelona.
The motivation should always be the same no matter who the opponent is. But it should be even greater when the first trophy of the season is up for grabs. That is all the motivation we need.
Twenty goals for and only four conceded in this edition of the Copa del Rey illustrate Real Madrid’s offensive and defensive prowess, which will be crucial come Wednesday.
We need to be in top form and focused from start to finish on Wednesday. We must remain serious and focus on every play. We must fight like a team. No one is going to just gift wrap this title for us.
You expect it to be a fairly played match.
We hope there are no problems on the pitch and that the only thing spoken about between players is football. We want there to be fair play and that no one provokes his adversary. Neither Real Madrid nor its fans will cause any problems. We have proven to be gentlemen on the pitch and that we respect our rival. We never act to have our opponent sent off. We also hope our fans respect others. Millions of people will be watching, so both fan bases need to be role models despite the rivalry. Many people will be at the match with their kids, and they want to want to see a pretty match between their idols. We hope that’s all it amounts to and that nothing unfortunate takes place.
Real Madrid proved on Saturday that it is ready for everything, including playing against Barcelona with ten men.
These matches motivate players. At no time can we give up. We did respond well when our opponent had the upper hand. We fought, we ran and we sacrificed ourselves, and that is what fans want. They want a Real Madrid that never gives up.
Is the team in better sprits after shutting down Barcelona with only ten men over the weekend?
I think so. It isn’t easy with everything that is coming up. That match was a turning point for us and it helped boost our morale. Whatever the case may be, it can all be summed up by the fact that the ball may go in and that we score more goals than them.
How do you prepare for these kinds of matches?
You begin preparing from the moment you know you will be in final and that you will be facing Barcelona. My teammates and I have been thinking about this match for three months. It’s now upon us and it is all we are preparing for. It is a final and Spanish football's prettiest match of the season so far. We hope it falls in our favor.
As captain, what advice can you give your teammates?
Advice? That they have fun. They need to know that there will be a lot of Real Madrid fans supporting them and that many will try to make it to the game in Valencia. We need to think about the 18,000 to 20,000 fans that will be in the stands. We hope we can recognize them and see them from the pitch. We must win for them, the club and for us as well.
How does the team look?
It looks good. We have a very young team and we are playing in a final. I think we have the confidence and nerve to do the best we can.
What has Madrid done this year to join Mourinho in placing so much importance on the Cup?
The coach is a winner and he has placed importance on the Cup from day one. Mourinho believes every match is important and he has made sure that we focus only on this match. That is what he stuck in our heads and we have come out on top against everyone from Murcia to Levante to Atletico and Sevilla. We sense his desire to reach and win the final.
Fan support will play a crucial role in winning.
Without a doubt. It will be crucial. We cannot wait to see the South stands full of Madridistas. We thank them for being there because making the tip and planning their Easter vacation around this is a big deal.
Can you imagine Mestalla’s South stand full of Madridistas? What do you want to see come Wednesday?
Really, great atmosphere. I want the fans to have fun and to enjoy supporting their team. They need to know that we will do everything we can to win, but that things may turn out for the better of for the worse. But we want them to have fun and to ensure that we are a role model of a club and fan base.
What do you ask of Madridistas?
Respect for the opponent and their fans. If we are the best team in the world, we also need to have the best mannered fans in the world. Any support fans provide is great, but they must respect the opponent.
Pirri, who won the 1974 Cup against Barcelona, said that this team has recovered the spirit that always defined this team. Do you see it that way, too?
We have seen historic turn arounds since the dayts of Juanito, Butragueño and the Quinta. This team must always fight and push itself to the limit. It may play well or poorly, but it can never give up for dead. We have a coach who thinks like this and who teaches it to us every day. The players have received the message well.
What advice have former players like Chendo and Butragueño given you?
This is the prettiest match of the season so far, so just imagine if we win. We want to win the Copa del Rey. I am sure it will be mayhem because this team deserves a title for the season it has had.
With players and fans so gelled, is the Copa close than ever?
A large portion of our success is due to our fans. They cannot be on the pitch with us, but from just beyond it they can help carry us to greatness.