Copa Del Rey Final Preview: Barcelona v Valencia4 min read
This Saturday, the Estadio Benito Villamarin, home of Real Betis, hosts the 2018/19 Copa Del Rey final, and what a match we have in prospect.
Holders Barcelona have kept a stranglehold on this competition since they lost in the 2014 final to Real Madrid. Some may recall that match because of Gareth Bale’s scintillating winner at the Estadio Mestalla, home of Valencia, Barca’s opponents this coming weekend.
Since then, the Catalans have won all four finals, scoring 13 goals and conceding just two in the process.
To put into perspective the task that faces Valencia, the Blaugrana have been in eight Copa Del Rey finals, winning six of them, since Los Che’s last cup final win – against Getafe in 2008.
Valencia’s encouraging end-of-season form
However, Marcelino’s side come into the match high on confidence after qualifying for the Champions League again.
Although they’ve lost four out of the last seven games in all competitions, two of those were against Arsenal in the Europa League.
Domestically, they’ve only been defeated three times since late January, and Barca have concerns over their form and their personnel.
Luis Suarez and Marc-Andre ter Stegen are definitely ruled out, whilst Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele aren’t expected to feature.
There are question marks over Nelson Semedo, who suffered a head injury in the last league match at Eibar, and Arthur, who is only just returning from injury.
Barcelona's Coutinho returns to training ahead of Copa del Rey final https://t.co/fa6El9daQs
— SPORT English (@Sport_EN) May 22, 2019
No foregone conclusion
Though Valencia have only beaten Barca once in the domestic cup competition (11 years ago), frankly, there’ll never be a better time for them to get one over their rivals.
Eibar showed how easily Barca can be rattled post-Liverpool, and with Dani Parejo pulling the strings in Valencia’s midfield, the Blaugrana will have their work cut out in trying to stop the counter-attacks that Santi Mina and Rodrigo Moreno will delight in finishing off.
Los Che’s raiding down the flanks through the magnificent Goncalo Guedes and Carlos Soler will also cause problems for the holders, particularly if Jordi Alba and Semedo (or Sergi Roberto) aren’t at it from the first whistle.
Jasper Cillessen will want to sign off with a better performance than the one he gave at Ipurua, and he will look to Gerard Pique, enjoying his best season for Barca, and Clement Lenglet to provide able defensive cover when needed.
When all is said and done of course, there’s one man that can make the difference; Lionel Messi. If the Argentinian decides to turn up, which invariably he almost always does in the big finals, then woe betide the opponent.
Fan footage of Lionel Messi's amazing solo goal against Athletic Bilbao in Copa Del Rey Final.pic.twitter.com/HOZI0OocFk
— Football Factly (@FootballFactly) June 1, 2015
Valencia have only two clean sheets in the last 13 matches, suggesting a porous defence, whilst Barcelona have only failed to score in three out of their last 20 games.
There are match winners on both sides, and goals are assured, meaning just minor details will decide where the trophy ends up.
If that’s in Barca’s favour, they’ll set a never-before-achieved record of five successive cup final wins.