There’s no disputing it – Barcelona are the Kings of the King’s Cup.
We’ve plucked out a few of the numbers that demonstrate just how dominant Barcelona are, and why Sevilla should be concerned when they meet in the Copa del Rey final on April 21.
The last time that Barcelona did not make the final of the Copa del Rey, and you’d have to go back to 2010 for the last time they failed to at least make the semi-final stage. Five successive finals had never before been achieved in the competition’s 114-year history.
Career goals for Lionel Messi in the Copa del Rey though it’s good enough for only ninth among the competition’s top goal-scorers.
There are a few obvious targets he will be aiming to surpass in the final, with former Real Madrid hero Santillana just one ahead.
And then there’s a couple of early La Liga pioneers, Hungary-born duo Laszlo Kubala and Ferenc Puskas, tantalisingly perched on 49.
Should Barca triumph against Sevilla it would be their fourth Copa del Rey title in a row – a feat only accomplished by Real (1905-1908) and Athletic Club (1930-1933) so far.
Andres Iniesta, Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique will be out to secure their fifth Copa del Rey success overall. The record-holder, Athletic’s Piru Gainza, sits on seven.
Barca have lifted the Copa del Rey 29 times in their history – six clear of second-most successful club Athletic and 10 ahead of Real Madrid. A 30th title is now in their sights.
Given that Athletic have not even reached a final since 1984 – in which time Barca have got their hands on the silverware on nine occasions – it’s fair to say they won’t be caught any time soon.
First leg result: Barcelona 1-0 Valencia
Barcelona injuries: Ousmane Dembele, Thomas Vermaelen
Valencia injuries: Andreas Pereira, Gonçalo Guedes, Jeison Murillo
Date/Time: Friday, February 9, 2018, 12:30am GST
Venue: Estadio de Mestalla, València, Spain
Where to watch: beIN SPORTS / beIN SPORTS CONNECT (stream)
Luis Suarez‘s second-half goal from last week’s encounter separates the two sides, with the striker in a rich vein of form having put his early-season struggles behind him. However, the Uruguayan will have to watch his step at the Mestalla, as a yellow card will see him miss the final should Barcelona go through.
Valencia were excellent defensively at the Camp Nou, and keeping the deficit down to 1-0 gives them a good chance of pulling off an upset.
They’ll need to be more adventurous in search of a goal to level the tie, which may leave them vulnerable – but despite a recent slump, Valencia’s own attack is potent, and thrilling. Barcelona’s lead is far from a guarantee of getting them through.
The winners will face Sevilla in the final who beat Leganes 2-0 on Wednesday to advance 3-1 on aggregate.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Cillessen; Roberto, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, Iniesta, Paulinho; Messi, Suárez, Coutinho
Valencia (4-4-2): Jaume; Montoya, Gabriel, Garay, Gaya; Soler, Parejo, Kondogbia, Lato; Rodrigo, Santi Mina
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde says he will not attempt to curb Luis Suarez‘s aggression ahead of Thursday night’s Copa del Rey semi-final second leg, despite Suarez being one yellow card away from being suspended for the final should his team prevail over Valencia.
Suarez, who has earned eight yellow cards across all competitions, missed last year’s final through suspension as well, not featuring in Barcelona’s win over Deportivo Alaves for their only trophy of the season.
“I’ve spoken with Luis Suarez about his character on the odd occasion,” Valverde said. “The aggression he has in attack, with how he looks for space and goals, is good for us, even if sometimes it can lead to a booking or something.
“But now we’ve got a semi-final to play. Suarez is experienced and he knows how to look after himself. We’re going to give everything to win. We will worry about the future later.”
Suarez has scored nine goals across all competitions in 2018, and thus he would be a big miss if Barcelona were to reach the final and he were to be suspended.
For now, the striker is concentrating on closing the tie against Valencia, with Barcelona holding a 1-0 lead from the first leg at the Camp Nou last week.
“It’s a minimal advantage that we have because there are 90 minutes left,” Suarez had said after the first leg.
“Valencia at home are always stronger and even more so in a Copa semi-final.”