Barcelona stand a chance to complete back-to-back domestic doubles this weekend, when they face off against Valencia in the final of the Copa del Rey.
Barcelona will be aiming to complete their second consecutive domestic double, when they lock horns with Valencia in the Copa del Rey final at Estadio Benito Villamarin on Saturday night.
Having sealed the La Liga title quite early, without much trouble, the Catalans men will be gunning to add another trophy to their cabinet this weekend. Ernesto Valverde’s men have beaten Cultural Leonesa, Levante, Sevilla and bitter rivals Real Madrid in the previous rounds to make it to the final and will not want to slip up at the last hurdle.
Barcelona’s recent form has been a bit dodgy though, with the Blaugrana winning just one of their last four fixtures in all competitions. Their most recent fixture ended in a 2-2 draw against Eibar on the final matchday of La Liga last weekend.
Valencia come into the game buoyed by their qualification to the Champions League next season, having finished fourth in the La Liga standings, following their 2-0 win over Real Valladolid on the last day of the season. Marcelino’s men have won three of their last four matches across all competitions and have generally been a hard side to beat this term, more so in domestic football.
Valencia’s pathway to the final of the Copa del Rey saw them defeat lower league sides Ebro and Sporting Gijon, before getting the better of Getafe and Real Betis in the quarter-final and semi-final ties respectively. This is Los Che’s first final appearance since 2008, when they went on to lift the trophy and will be aiming to do so again when they take the field.
The two teams have clashed twice this season, with both the matches ending in a score draw. Ahead of the mouth-watering finale at the Benito Villamarin, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at the contest.
Team News & Tactics
Barcelona have been hit with injuries to a number of key players heading into the big game this weekend. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has been ruled out of the contest with a knee injury, as are Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele. Nelson Semedo suffered a head injury against Eibar and is a doubt.
Philippe Coutinho is also an injury concern for the Catalans, but the Brazilian did take part in a training session earlier in the week, which could be a huge boost for manager Valverde at the moment. Arthur Melo is also expected to be fit and available for the tie, having completed his recovery.
With no Ter Stegen, Jasper Cillessen will slot in as the goalkeeper for the trophy holders, in what could very well be his last appearance for the club. Semedo’s injury means Sergi Roberto should get the nod at right-back, while Jordi Alba starts on the left side, with Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet manning the heart of the defence.
Sergio Busquets will slot in as the deepest of the three midfielders, tasked with being the link between the two halves of the pitch, while the energy in the engine room will come from Arturo Vidal, who has established himself as the first-choice in recent months. The third spot in the middle of the park will fall to mainstay Ivan Rakitic.
Given the number of injuries in the attacking department, Malcom is set to feature from kick-off on the right flank, while Philippe Coutinho, should he be fit enough, is likely to be thrust into action right away on the left side. Spearheading the attack for Barcelona on Saturday night will be captain and star man Lionel Messi.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Cillessen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Vidal, Busquets, Rakitic; Malcom, Messi, Coutinho
Unlike Barcelona, Valencia have very little headaches with injuries, with Denis Cheryshev being the only first-team member not available for the Copa del Rey final. Defender Ezequiel Garay has recovered from a back problem and ready to return, while midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia is also fully fit.
Jaume Domenech will be a busy man between the sticks for Los Che and will need all the protection he can get from the back four comprising of Cristiano Piccini and Jose Gaya as the full-backs, with Garay and Gabriel Paulista lining up as the centre-back pairing to try and keep Messi quiet.
Dani Parejo is a guaranteed starter in the middle of the park in Marcelino’s side and with Kondogbia fit again, he should be preferred as the second central midfielder on the night ahead of Francis Coquelin. Carlos Soler will start on the right flank, while the left flank will be occupied by Portuguese starlet Goncalo Guedes, who could prove to be quite a handful for the Catalans.
Up ahead, the strike partnership of Rodrigo Moreno and Kevin Gameiro is likely to be preferred by the manager, with Santi Mina providing additional option from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Domenech; Piccini, Garay, Gabriel, Gaya; Soler, Parejo, Kondogbia, Guedes; Rodrigo, Gameiro
- This will be Barcelona’s sixth consecutive final appearance in the Copa del Rey. They have ended up on the winning side on all of their previous four attempts and will be eyeing a fifth trophy in a row on Saturday night.
- Saturday’s final appearance will be Valencia’s first in over ten years. The last time they reached this stage of the competition was in 2008, when they went on to lift the trophy, beating Getafe 3-1.
- Barcelona are the most successful team in Copa del Rey history, having won the competition on 30 occasions. Valencia, on the other hand, have clinched the trophy seven times previously.
- Barcelona and Valencia have met each other in the final of the competition on three previous occasions, with the Catalans coming out on top in two of those matches.
- The last three meetings between the two teams in the Copa del Rey have all been in the semi-finals (2012, 2016 and 2018). Barcelona have won all three ties on aggregate and have gone on to lift the trophy each time.
Player to Watch
The little magician from Argentina has won his sixth European Golden Shoe, having scored 36 times in La Liga this season, three more than second-placed Kylian Mbappe who played his last league game on Friday. It has been another spectacular season for Messi, who on a multitude of occasions, has dragged Barcelona over the line single-handedly.
And with the likes of Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele not available for the final, the onus will once again be entirely on the Catalans’ captain to lead them to a fifth Copa del Rey triumph in a row on Saturday night. The 31-year-old has scored all of Barcelona’s three goals against Valencia in the league this season and will once again be the man to watch out at the Benito Villamarin.
Barcelona 2-1 Valencia
Barcelona haven’t been at their best in recent games and injuries to key players adds to the Catalans’ problems, with the pressure on manager Valverde following their Champions League exit.
Valencia, on the other hand, come into the game having won their last three league matches with comfort. They have been very hard to break down this season and are sure to make life difficult for the Catalans.
The two clashes between the two sides this season have ended in draws, meaning Saturday night’s encounter is likely to be a very tightly-contested affair. However, we at The Hard Tackle are backing Barcelona to come out on top, with Lionel Messi stepping up and making the difference once again, like he has done on so many occasions in the past.