MADRID (Reuters) – Real Madrid’s bid to win the Copa del Rey starts in Africa on Wednesday as new interim coach Santiago Solari makes his debut against UD Melilla, a third-tier side who hail from an autonomous Spanish city bordered by Morocco.
Spain and Morocco have shared a long-running dispute over the city of Melilla, which has been under Spanish control since the 15th century, longer than cities like Granada and Malaga.
Madrid visit Melilla in a round of 32 first-leg tie at the 12,000-seater Alvarez Claro stadium, which is likely to be sold out. The city’s population is 80,000.
“Ever since the draw was made the phone’s been off the hook, everyone wants us to get them tickets,” one of the directors of Real Madrid’s Melilla fan club, Francisco Serrano, told AS.
“On November 1 (a day after the game) our fan club turns 55 years old. We are the fifth oldest fan club and the first which was created in Africa. We have 90 members.”
The minnows won promotion to Segunda Division B in 1987, almost reaching the second tier in 2010 but losing against Las Palmas in the playoffs.
They have not enjoyed much success in the Copa del Rey, reaching this stage most recently in 2012, where they were eliminated by Levante, although they earned a 1-0 win at home in the first leg.
Melilla will look to make life as uncomfortable as possible for Solari who was appointed interim coach on Monday after Julen Lopetegui was sacked.
(Editing by Toby Davis)