Ernesto Valverde expects an aggressive Valencia against Barcelona in Copa del Rey semi-finals second leg

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Marcelino's Valencia go head to head with Valverde's Barcelona.

Marcelino has urged Valencia to play with their heads as well as their hearts as they attempt to edge past Barcelona into the Copa del Rey final.

The sides meet in the second leg of their semi-final showdown at the Mestalla on Thursday evening with Barca carrying a 1-0 lead into the game courtesy of Luis Suarez‘s lone strike at the Nou Camp last week.

Coach Marcelino knows the hosts are up against it if they are to beat the Catalan giants, who last lost in Valencia in March 2008, but is confident they have what it takes to push the runaway LaLiga leaders all the way.

He told Valencia’s official website: “We are expecting a long game, a very tough game, and hopefully after the 90 minutes we will be able to say that we are in a Copa del Rey final.

“Emotionally, it is going to be an intense game, but we need to play with our heads and our hearts. We have to be clever. If we don’t defend well, we won’t go through. I am asking the fans to help us defend.

“We should be humble because we know that we don’t have a team that can dominate Barcelona for 90 minutes. Our plan is to defend well, but to attack better than in the first leg and get into the final stages with the possibility of going through.

“I prefer to avoid extra-time.”

Valencia will run out having lost each of their last five games in all competitions, one of them a 2-1 defeat at Alaves in the last round, although they ultimately prevailed on penalties.

Suarez's goal in the first-leg is all that separates the two sides.

Suarez’s goal in the first-leg is all that separates the two sides.

By contrast, Ernesto Valverde‘s side will arrive having lost only once in 35 games in all competitions since being beaten in both legs of their Spanish Super Cup clash with Real Madrid in August.

However, they needed a late equaliser from defender Gerard Pique to spare their blushes against derby rivals Espanyol – the only team to have beaten them in the meantime – in the league on Sunday.

Lionel Messi was used only as a second-half substitute at the weekend as Valverde made six changes, and Marcelino interpreted that as an indication of Barca’s focus on the cup-tie.

He said: “This shows that Barca want to get to a final and not throw the game away, and also that they respect us a lot.”

Valverde is expecting a more progressive approach from Valencia on their own pitch and admits his team is unlikely to be able to rely on its slim advantage alone to progress.

He told a press conference: “Each team will be loyal to its style, but Valencia will try to be more aggressive in attack because of the result from the first leg. Both teams will go for it.

“Taking into account the attacking potential of Valencia, more so playing in Mestalla, I have the feeling that to get through, we will have to score.”

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Alexis Sanchez settles for 16-month suspended sentence in Spanish tax fraud case

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Sanchez has reached a settlement with the Spanish authorities.

Manchester United striker Alexis Sanchez has struck a deal with Spanish authorities to accept a 16-month suspended jail sentence for tax fraud in return for avoiding a trial.

Sanchez, who joined United from Arsenal last month, faced being tried over the fraud of 983,000 euros ($1.21 million) linked to image rights during his time at Spanish giants Barcelona, according to details of the deal seen by AFP.

Prosecutors said the 29-year-old Chilean forward had failed to declare any proceeds from the exploitation of his image rights in 2012 and 2013 and had also failed to declare that he was the owner of a company set up in Malta, Numidia Trading Limited, which owned the rights.

Appearing by video link from London, Sanchez admitted he had “made an incorrect tax payment” and that he had settled the issue with tax authorities.

He was sentenced to two eight-month suspended jail sentences to run consecutively, although prosecutors have called for the sentence to be lifted after two years if he does not re-offend.

Sanchez scored 47 goals in 141 appearances for Barcelona before leaving in 2014 to join Arsenal.

He is rumoured to be the highest paid player in the Premier League following his move to United, reportedly earning around £500,000 ($710,000, 571,000 euros) a week before tax.

Sanchez is one of a number of high-profile players to have fallen foul of the tax authorities in Spain.

Sanchez, along with Messi, is among several stars to fall foul of the tax laws.

Sanchez, along with Messi, is among several stars to fall foul of the tax laws.

In 2016, Barcelona midfielder Lionel Messi was sentenced to a 21-month jail sentence that was eventually reduced to a fine of 2.1 million euros.

Last month, Real Madrid‘s Croatian midfielder Luka Modric paid Spanish fiscal authorities close to one million euros to settle his own image rights tax case.

The former Barcelona and Liverpool player Javier Mascherano has accepted a one-year suspended jail sentence over a 1.5-million-euro tax fraud.

In potentially the largest case, Spanish authorities are currently investigating World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid for tax fraud amounting to 14.7 million euros.

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Thibaut Courtois issues come-and-get-me plea to Real Madrid despite Chelsea contract talks

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Thibaut Courtois

Thibaut Courtois has issued a come-and-get-me plea to Real Madrid after saying his “heart is in Madrid”.

The 25-year-old goalkeeper is in the middle of negotiations for a new deal with Chelsea as his current contract expires next year.

Los Blancos have been linked with moves for a new No1 after missing out on Athletic Bilbao’s promising young goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga last month.

The reigning Spanish and European champions have reportedly switch their attentions back to Manchester United’s David De Gea but speaking with Belgian outlet Sport/Foot Magazine, Courtois spoke of his affection for Madrid.

“My personal situation is related to the city of Madrid,” he said. “My two children live there with their mum. I have my daughter every day on FaceTime. She often tells me that she misses me. My son is still too small to communicate like that.

“Whenever I have the opportunity, I try to return to Spain. As a situation, it is not always easy. Yes, my heart is in Madrid. It is logical and understandable.

“If they want me, they have to contact Chelsea. We’ll see. But they have not done that. What is certain is that one day I will return to Madrid. I love Spain, I love the city, I spent three wonderful years there [with Atletico Madrid]. It is there that I became an adult.

“Atletico was a real group of friends. We went out together and my team-mates taught me a language I did not know at all when I arrived. When I left, I cried. My first days in

Her first game in the stadium supporting daddy! 👧🏻💙

A post shared by Thibaut Courtois (@thibautcourtois) on

London were not easy. England, when I arrived, was colder, more business. Now, I feel very good here.

“I understand that the rumours are coming back today, as we are talking about a new goalkeeper there [at Real]. But I do not pay much attention to that, I stay focused on Chelsea.

“If Real are really interested, my personal situation could influence things. The family aspect is priceless. But I repeat to you that, for the moment, I’m busy talking to Chelsea to extend.”

Courtois is in contract negotiations with Chelsea and confirmed talks will continue this month.

He added: “We agreed to meet again in February because the club had more urgent issues to deal with in January.

“There is no rush, I am under contract until 2019. Normally, there is no problem, I will extend. I am happy here and I see a club that still wants to win a lot of titles. The signs are positive.

“Their desire to also extend Eden Hazard’s deal reassures me.”

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