Coach says no let-up as Barcelona face Valencia, target Copa del Rey final

Barcelona will take on Valencia in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final at home on Thursday.

football Updated: Feb 01, 2018 11:30 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse, Barcelona
Barcelona,Valencia,Copa del Rey
FC Barcelona will take on Valencia in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final on Thursday night.(Reuters)

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde insists the Copa del Rey holders won’t overlook a Valencia side weakened by injuries ahead of Thursday’s semi-final first leg at the Camp Nou.

“When you get to the semi-final you have to make the most of your luck,” Valverde told a news conference on Wednesday. “A semi-final, it’s the chance to play a final and we must give everything to get there.

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“Valencia will do the same thing. Reaching a final doesn’t happen every day,” added Valverde, whose side have already beaten Celta Vigo and local rivals Espanyol in the cup this month.

Barcelona, the record 29-time champions, are attempting to become the first team to lift the cup four years in a row since Athletic Bilbao in the 1930s.

They will be strong favourites to reach a fifth successive final, with Valencia missing a trio of key players -- Goncalo Guedes, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Ezequiel Garay -- through injury.

“They’re feeling the effects of lots of matches this January,” said Valverde, who spent six months in charge of Valencia between 2012 and 2013.

Barcelona thrashed Valencia 8-1 on aggregate -- following a 7-0 win in the first leg -- at the same stage of the competition two years ago, but Valverde acknowledged a repeat scoreline is unlikely.

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“It won’t be like the last time, a 7-0 is not normal for a first game. Valencia were in a delicate position then, but now they have a team that is good enough to win any match.”

In Wednesday’s first semi-final, little Leganes, who stunned mighty Real Madrid in the quarter-finals, battled back from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Sevilla in the opening leg.

Colombian international Luis Muriel gave Sevilla the lead after 21 minutes, scoring with the aid of a deflection off the post.

But Leganes levelled on the night when Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico blundered trying to keep out a header from Greek defender Dimitrios Siovas.

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Leganes, who were playing in the third division five years ago and are in the Copa del Rey semi-finals for the first time in their 90-year history, remain the outsiders against Sevilla, at least on financial terms.

Their annual budget of 45 million euros is four times less than that of Sevilla.

First Published: Feb 01, 2018 11:30 IST