- Copy link
We’re down to the last four in the Copa del Rey and FC Barcelona are at home in the first leg against Valencia. It’s a repeat of the semi-final four years ago, which the Catalans won 3-1. Here’s a round-up of some of the key points that people have been talking about in the build-up to the game.
THREE IN A ROW
FC Barcelona are bidding to become to the first team this century to play in three consecutive Copa del Rey Finals, and also to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since the 1997 and 1998 editions, won by Barça under Bobby Robson first and Louis Van Gaal second.
This is the third time in eight years that these teams have met at this stage of the tournament. Valencia qualified en route to the title in 2008, the last major trophy won by the club, but have only beaten Barça once in eighteen meetings since then.
Other than long-term absentee Rafinha, Luis Enrique has a full squad at his disposal, and that means the luxury of being able to rest both Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano on Wednesday. Playing no fewer than ten games in thirty days will take its toll on anyone.
But it should also be borne in mind that the issue of a heavy fixture list is the same for all four of the Copa del Rey semi-finalists. In January, Valencia had two-legged ties against Granada and Las Palmas to get through in addition to their league programme.
GETTING THE JOB DONE QUICK
Winning the first leg away from home against Espanyol and Athletic Bilbao meant the team could afford to take their feet off the accelerator once qualification looked assured.
Even though Valencia aren’t having the best of seasons, Mestalla is never an easy place to go, as Barça know only too well after drawing 1-1 there in December. So it would be nice to be going there with a head start.
VALENCIA IN TROUBLE
Valencia have not failed to finish in the top half of La Liga since 1988, but they’re down in 12th at the moment. Manager Nuno Espírito Santo was replaced by Gary Neville in December, but with five draws and three defeats, they have yet to register a league win under the Englishman.
But their cup run is in contrast to their poor league form, and qualification for the final would be the perfect way to get something positive out of a disappointing season. And that makes them doubly dangerous.
- Copy link