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Valencia Club de Fútbol was founded in March 1919, and would like nothing more than a Copa del Rey trophy to celebrate their centenary year. But to do that, they face the difficult task of beating the 30-time winners of the cup, FC Barcelona. Let’s take a closer look at Saturday’s opposition…
When the team first started playing, His Majesty King Alfonso XIII’s Cup, as it was known at the time, was an end-of-season tournament for the champions of each of Spain’s regional leagues (there was no national league until 1929).
Valencia qualified for the first time in 1923, the same year they moved to their current Mestalla stadium (a lot smaller then!), and reached the final for the first time in 1934 (losing to Madrid). In 1941 they finally got their hands on the trophy, beating Espanyol in the final.
This is Valencia’s 17th cup final in total, and they are fifth in the all-time list of winners, having lifted the cup seven times. Their most recent victory came when they beat Getafe 3-1 in the 2008 final, with Barça legend Ronald Koeman as their manager.
Following a ten-year drought, this is their first final since then.
PREVIOUS FINALS AGAINST BARÇA
1952 Barça 4-2 Valencia (played at Chamartin, Madrid)
1954 Valencia 3-0 Barça (played at Chamartin, Madrid)
1971 Barça 4-3 Valencia (played at Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid)
LAST FIVE CUP MEETINGS
1999 (QUARTER FINAL) Valencia won 7-5 on aggregate and went on to win the trophy
2008 (SEMI FINAL) Valencia won 4-3 on aggregate and went on to win the trophy
2012 (SEMI FINAL) Barça won 3-1 on aggregate and went on to win the trophy
2016 (SEMI FINAL) Barça won 8-1 on aggregate and went on to win the trophy
2018 (SEMI FINAL) Barça won 3-0 on aggregate and went on to win the trophy
ROAD TO SEVILLE 2018/19
Round of 32: Beat Ebro 3-1 on aggregate
Round of 16: Beat Sporting Gijón 4-2 on aggregate
Quarter Final: Beat Getafe 3-2 on aggregate
Semi final: Beat Real Betis 3-2 on aggregate
THE SEASON SO FAR
Reaching the cup final comes as a big reward for Valencia’s fans, at the end of a season that has been a rough ride. It has ended a lot better than might have been expected after they won just one of their first eleven league games and crashed out of the Champions League in the group stage, finishing behind Juventus and Manchester United.
They dropped into the Europa League and marched past Celtic, Krasnodar and neighbours Villarreal before a hefty 7-3 loss to Arsenal in the semi-final. Meanwhile in the league, a 12-match unbeaten spell saw them slowly edge up the table and right at the end managed to squeeze in ahead of Getafe and Sevilla and grab the fourth and final Champions League berth on the last day.
THIS SEASON V BARÇA
Valencia’s top scorers (in all competitions) this season have been Rodrigo (14), Santi Mina (13) and Frenchman Kevin Gameiro (11). The same trio lead the way in the cup, with 4, 4 and 2 goals respectively.
Mina, who insists “we are going to play like warriors, I’m sure we’re going to do something big” has even said that if his team win, he’s going to celebrate by getting a commemorative tattoo done.
Meanwhile, Gameiro offers that “with Messi, Barcelona are never easy to beat. Our game at Camp Nou showed that. But we can’t afford to play with fear of what’s in front of us. Do that and you lose … I’m not afraid.”
Argentine centre back Ezequiel Garay knows what it’s like to beat Barça in a cup final. He featured in the Real Madrid team that did that in 2011 – albeit only for the very last minute. Now a key man at Valencia, he’s been nursing an injury of late but is expected to ready in time for the final.
Geoffrey Kondogbia of the Central African Republic insists that “what Liverpool did to Barça was a good example for use – but we intend to do it our way. Playing the way we like to play and finding the places where we can damage them most.”
On the team’s remarkable turnaround this year, Dani Parejo, the midfield stalwart in his eighth season at the club says that “sometimes a series of things happen that can’t be explained. We weren’t winning, but the fans didn’t view us as a lost cause. Things got back to normal, the goals started coming and we doubled the amount of goals.”
Coutinho dribbles versus Valencia
A product of the Sporting Gijón youth system, Marcelino never lived up to his full potential as a player and was forced into retirement through injury when he was just 18.
As a manager he won his respect by guiding Recreativo Huelva into the first division and then Racing Santander to their highest ever Liga finish, sixth place. He’s since managed Real Zaragoza, Sevilla and Villarreal before joining Valencia in 2017.
Although many suspected he’d be shown the door when the team was struggling earlier this season, the club stuck with him and the results have finally started to come again.
He’s masterminded two draws with Barça this season, saying “the key is to stop Leo Messi from getting involved.” But didn’t Messi score all three Barça goals in those matches? “Yes” says Marcelino. “The problem is that he might not appear much, but when he does he still had a definitive influence against us.”
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