Barcelona booked their place in the Copa del Rey final for the fifth successive year as they beat Valencia 2-0 to progress 3-0 on aggregate on Thursday.
Barcelona came into the second leg with a slender one-goal advantage, but could have doubled that lead early on if not for goalkeeper Jaume Domenech, who saved Lionel Messi’s free-kick. Valencia then took charge of the proceedings for a while, with Rodrigo being denied by the crossbar and Jasper Cillessen.
Barcelona finally broke the deadlock four minutes into the second half as Philippe Coutinho opened his account for his new club as he stretched to meet Luis Suarez’s cross. The win was then rounded off with eight minutes left in regulation time as Suarez this time teed up Ivan Rakitic for the visitors’ second.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 8, 2018
The win meant Barcelona progressed to the King’s Cup final for the fifth year running, and they will meet Sevilla in the showdown in April. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Jasper Cillessen: 8/10
Cillessen resumed his customary place in goal for cup games, and was as solid as Marc-Andre ter Stegen has usually been for Barcelona this season. The Dutchman was beaten just once on the night, when the crossbar came to his rescue.
Jasper Cillessen with a contender for save of the season pic.twitter.com/iTX9t4xNSK
— Mohamed Moallim (@iammoallim) February 8, 2018
But, he was at hand to stop every other shot that came his way thereafter. Francis Coquelin and Rodrigo only forced Cillessen into making regulation saves, but it was the stop from Jose Gaya’s close-range shot that the goalkeeper will remember for a long time.
Sergi Roberto: 6/10
Defensively solid for the most part, Roberto was only given somewhat of a tough time by Goncalo Guedes. Going forward, his understanding with Ivan Rakitic and Philippe Coutinho was much better than Andre Gomes in the first half, meaning Barcelona strung better attacks from the right flank post the break.
Gerard Pique: 6/10
Pique was a surprise name in Ernesto Valverde’s matchday squad as it was initially feared that a knee injury would rule him out. But, the veteran defender braved the pain through his stint on the pitch, although it visibly affected his performance as he struggled against Rodrigo on the night. Could be rested on the weekend against Getafe.
📰 [Sport] | Pique sat down on the bench and clearly had pain in his right knee. Everything indicates he will be out on Sunday against Getafe at Camp Nou, with Samuel Umtiti also suspended. Valverde will have to look for alternatives. pic.twitter.com/5cKRWRkOiK
— BarcaTimes (@BarcaTimes) February 9, 2018
Samuel Umtiti: 7/10
As has often been the case this season, albeit for completely different reasons, Umtiti had to take on some extra responsibility at the heart of defence in keeping the Valencia attack in check. He had his hands full with the hard-pressing Simone Zaza, but the Italian only got the better of him once on the night.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
Not one of the best performances for Alba, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The Spaniard was tireless in his effort on Thursday, but could not be as effective in his link up play. At the back though, there was very little troubling the defender.
Andre Gomes: 4/10
Another night when Gomes got a chance to impress by Valverde, another outing in which he flattered to deceive. Clueless at times, Gomes wasn’t purposeful enough to make the difference for his side, and a poor pass almost cost the visitors dearly.
Taken off at half-time, one has to wonder, when the Barcelona boss will draw the line when it comes to the under-performing Portuguese midfielder.
Ivan Rakitic: 8/10
Rakitic has turned his season around, and how. The Croat, who could barely do much right in the early stages of the campaign, is now one of the most in-form players for Barcelona, and it was more of the same on Thursday.
Spectacular game by Rakitić:
3 chances created
11 ball recoveries (pic 1)
82 accurate passes, 97% (pic 2) pic.twitter.com/OBw6Lu3K0c
— Erdi (@barcanumbers) February 8, 2018
His positions were shuffled at times on the night, but he adapted brilliantly to each role. Regardless of the shuffle though, he diligently stuck to his task, defending when the need arose and attacking with purpose. A fine outing was capped off with a well taken goal in the dying stages of the match.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
It was a typical Busquets performance on Thursday, with the Barcelona veteran reading the game well to stop Los Che’s counter-attacks. On the attacking side of things, he was often the one to initiate his side’s plays while also controlling the tempo of the game smartly.
Andres Iniesta: 7/10
Another night when Iniesta ran the show. Even at the twilight of his career, he has no troubles making the difference for his side, and it was more of the same on Thursday. Always had a pass to pick as the visitors controlled the play for large parts. His minutes must be managed though, with Champions League on the horizon.
Lionel Messi: 7/10
Barcelona’s major creative outlet, alongside Iniesta. Messi was the most dangerous threat for Barcelona in the first half an hour, but as has been the case against Valencia this season, he just couldn’t get on the score sheet. This time, a curving free-kick was saved smartly by Jaume Domenech.
Luis Suarez: 8.5/10
Man of the match on Thursday. Suarez, like Rakitic, has put his early season blues well behind him. He started off slowly on the night, but the Uruguayan was on song post the break as he set up Coutinho and Rakitic with two brilliant passes, the second being particularly impressive as he stayed on his feet after being fouled.
Philippe Coutinho: 7/10
Coutinho’s first goal with Liverpool came from a Luis Suárez assist against Swansea. Coutinho’s first goal with Barcelona also came from a Luis Suárez assist. pic.twitter.com/Eh6CPh4yhI
— FC Barcelona (@BarcaUniversal) February 8, 2018
Many were left surprised when he was named among the substitutes, and Coutinho vindicated those opinions after coming on as he scored his maiden Barcelona goal. Other than the well-taken finish, the Brazilian struck a good partnership with Roberto and Rakitic, driving forward with purpose at every opportunity.
Paulinho replaced a tiring Iniesta around the hour mark and brought a burst of energy that helped the visitors assert their authority for the remainder of the match.
Yerry Mina: N/A
Came on for Pique to make his Barcelona debut, he helped see the game out without any major incident. Almost guaranteed to make his full debut against Getafe.