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Saturday (9.00pm CEST) bring the final game of the FC Barcelona, and it’s a big one! The Copa del Rey Final in Seville and the chance to end another amazing season with a domestic double.
Barça are through to the Spanish Cup final for a record sixth year in a row. And after winning the last four, matching the achievements of Real Madrid (1905-08) and Athletic Club (1930-33) they could now become the first team to ever to lift the trophy five times in a row.
No club in any of Europe’s ‘big five’ has ever won five cups in a row, and the only side in the continent that is on a more extended cup run is Vaduz of Liechtenstein, who recently won their seventh consecutive cup final.
Barça also hold the record for the most Spanish Cup titles overall, 30. Vaduz (47), Linfield of Northern Ireland (43) and Celtic and Rangers of Scotland (38 and 33) are the only European clubs that can boast more.
Rather surprisingly, this is only the fourth time that the final has ever been played in Seville, and it’s the first time for the 60,720 capacity Benito Villamarin, the fourth largest stadium in Spain. Real Betis have used it since it opened in 1929, although didn’t become its owners until 1961.
The green-and-whites, who hadn’t played in a final since they last won it in 2005, came within a whisker of playing one in their own stadium, but lost 3-2 on aggregate to Valencia in the semi-finals.
ROAD TO THE FINAL
This year’s cup run has not been plain sailing for the Catalans, who have had to turn around first leg defeats twice and also go to the Santiago Bernabéu after being held by Real Madrid in the first leg.
ROUND OF 32
Cultural Leonesa 0 Barça 1 (Lenglet)
Barça 4 (Munir, Denis Suárez 2, Malcom) Cultural Leonesa 1
ROUND OF 16
Levante 2 Barça 1 (Coutinho)
Barça 3 (Dembélé 2, Messi) Levante 0
Sevilla 2 Barça 0
Barça 6 (Coutinho 2, Rakitic, S Roberto, Suárez, Messi) Sevilla 1
Barça 1 (Malcom) Real Madrid 1
Real Madrid 0 Barça 3 (Suárez 2, Messi)
DID YOU KNOW?
Jordi Alba is set to make his 300th competitive appearance for FC Barcelona in this game.
In February 2018, Barça inflicted the biggest ever cup defeat on Valencia, 7-0 (tied with a similar victory for Real Sociedad way back in 1928).
Valencia manager Marcelino Garcia Toral has faced Barça 20 times with his different teams over the years. How many of those has he won? None!
In the last 29 meetings with Valencia, Barça have only been beaten twice.
Clement Lenglet and Nelson Semedo are the only players that have featured in every game in Barça’s Copa del Rey campaign this season. Arturo Vidal has played in seven.
Lenglet, who joined Barça in the summer, was part of the Sevilla side that suffered a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Barça in last year’s final.
Two members of the Barça squad have appeared for Valencia in the past. Jordi Alba spent three years there from 2009 to 2012, while Jeison Murillo is still officially on the books at Mestalla, having come to Barça on loan in December.
The Argentinian, fresh from winning an extraordinary sixth European Golden Shoe, has scored four goals and given five assists in the last four Copa del Rey Finals.
He scored all three of Barça’s goals against Valencia this season, both of which ended in draws, 1-1 and 2-2.
He has scored 27 goals in all competitions against Valencia over the years. Only Atlético Madrid and Sevilla have been on the receiving end of more.
Luis Suárez, scorer of three goals in the competition, misses this game following knee surgery, while goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen is also having knee bother (although it’s usually Jasper Cillessen who gets to play in cup games anyway).
Ernesto Valverde called up his entire squad of 25 players for the final, including those not available to play:
Ter Stegen, N. Semedo, Piqué, I. Rakitic, Sergio, Coutinho, Arthur, Suárez, Messi, O Dembélé, Rafinha, Cillessen, Malcom, Lenglet, Murillo, Jordi Alba, Boateng, S. Roberto, Aleñá, Vidal, Umtiti, Vermaelen, Abel Ruiz, Iñaki Peña and C. Pérez.
Ter Stegen, N. Semedo, Coutinho, Arthur, Suarez, O. Dembélé, Rafinha and Boateng travel without medical clearance, whilst Todibo is already with the French team for the U20 World Cup.
VALVERDE, MESSI AND PIQUE COMMENTS
In the pre-match press conferences, the importance of winning the final was a key theme.
Messi on the Copa Del Rey run: “This season we have put in some great performances and we have to give it all the importance of a final with the chance to win a trophy.”
On morale in the squad: “It was a big blow what happened to us [defeat at Liverpool]. It was difficult to pick ourselves up as you could see in the following game. We have to get our spirits up again.”
On the final at Benito Villamarín: “We are all aware that it is a final and it’s another trophy to win. We have to end the season well, celebrating another title if we can.”
On the coach: “I would like Valverde to continue. Last season we did the double and this season we can do it again.”
Gerard Pique: "Valencia have had a great year. We know the difficulty they present, but we want to compete to the maximum and win the title."
Ernesto Valverde on getting to the final: "We have to remember that the path to the final hasn't been easy. We've had to overcome obstacles and we've done that."
On Valencia and the final: "Now we're here. We want to win but we know how difficult the final will be. Valencia have had a great season, and are in good form aswell. Their style is clear and they play it very well."
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