Rival watch: Valencia continue skid; Celta draw at Sevilla

Rival watch: Valencia continue skid; Celta draw at Sevilla

FC Barcelona's Copa del Rey rivals lose again while their next La Liga opponents lose further ground in the table

With FC Barcelona alive and well in all three competitions, there are still plenty of teams out there that will have a shot — if they haven't already had one — at the regining La Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League titleholders.

Barça won their league match on Sunday, beating Levante by a score of 2–0 to stay three points clear at the top of the La Liga standings. FCB still have a game in hand, though.

By the time the final whistle had sounded, the next team in line, Atlético de Madrid, had already won their match to make sure they would at least keep pace. On Saturday afternoon, the Colchoneros came back from a one-goal deficit early on in the second half to beat Eibar 3–1. It was a welcome victory for Atlético, who were beaten by FC Barcelona at Camp Nou last weekend, hence creating the three-point gap in the table.

It was a big win, for sure, but it wasn't the highlight of the week. That came on Wednesday night, when FC Barcelona absolutely pulverised Valencia, 7–0, in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-finals at Camp Nou.

As we mentioned in last week's Rival Watch, Valencia had already been struggling before their Cup tie with Barça. As if the ignominy of such a lopsided loss wans't enough — a defeat which essentially ended all hope of a finals berth — Los Che played at Real Betis on Sunday and lost a 1–0 game for the second straight week, keeping them mired in 13th place.

While Valencia may be FC Barcelona's next opponent chronologically, the Catalans' true test this week comes versus Celta in La Liga on Sunday, 14 February at 8.30pm at Camp Nou. Celta, for their part, are seventh in the league, but are likely to be coming off a tough defeat of their own. Celta fell 4–0 at Sevilla in the first leg of the other Copa del Rey semi-final and, this week, must come up with a miracle to avoid elimination and set up a date with Barça in the Final.

In yet another eerie scheduling iteration — and despite the supposed randomness of the league calendar  — Celta and Sevilla, smack dab in the middle of their aforementioned Cup tie, went at it in La Liga this weekend as well. Sunday's match, between two sides fighting for slots in European competition next season, ended in a 1–1 draw.

Barça have English rivals too

When FC Barcelona travel to London to take on Arsenal in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League last 16 on 23 February, it will be the first time a non-Spanish team has had a crack at the Catalans since Barça defeated River Plate at the FIFA Club World Cup on 20 December.

Arsenal — currently 3rd in the Premier League table — went on the road to Bournemouth on Sunday and won by a score of 2–0. Mesut Ozil and then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain did all the damage with back-to-back goals in the 23rd and 24th minutes.

Força Barça
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