Barcelona are out to make up for their Champions League disappointment by securing a domestic double when they meet Valencia in the Copa del Rey final today
The 117th Copa del Rey final takes place at the Estadio Benito Villamarin in Seville this evening as Spanish champions Barcelona face Valencia.
Not many clubs can secure a league title and still have their season deemed a failure. But Barca could achieve that, with their stunning Champions League capitulation against Liverpool overshadowing their La Liga triumph which saw them finish 11 points clear of second place Atletico Madrid.
Ernesto Valverde’s future at the Camp Nou is under scrutiny as a result and defeat to Lose Che this weekend could seal his fate.
This is a competition Barcelona have dominated, however, winning it more than any other club in Spain.
Valverde’s men emerged triumphant in La Liga this season, finishing 11 points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid for their second league title in as many years. However, that achievement was overshadowed by the side’s stunning Champions League capitulation which saw them throw away a three-goal lead to lose to Liverpool in the semi-finals.
Barcelona have the chance to make amends this weekend but with Valverde’s future at the Camp Nou under scrutiny, defeat to Los Che could seal his fate.
Barca are looking to add to their La Liga triumph by making it a double, while their opponents – who finished 26 points worse off in the league – are aiming to lift their first piece of domestic silverware since going all the way in this competition 11 years ago.
Despite making it back-to-back La Liga titles under Ernesto Valverde, this campaign has been a rather mixed one for Barca following their disappointing exit from the Champions League.
The Catalan giants led Liverpool 3-0 heading into the second leg of their semi-final on May 7, only to lose 4-0 at Anfield as they crashed out 4-3 on aggregate.
It is a result that will go down as one of the worst in Barcelona’s history and it ensures that Valverde will head into the summer with questions being asked of his future at Camp Nou, regardless of this weekend’s result.
Barca retained the league title with a 1-0 win over Levante at the end of last month, but since then they have lost at Celta Vigo and Liverpool, while also being held by Eibar last time out. Their only win in four matches was at home to Getafe on May 12.
Changes were made for the 2-2 draw at Ipurua last weekend, but there is a fear that Barca’s momentum is drying up at just the wrong time, with their campaign crumbling following the heavy loss on Merseyside.
The Copa del Rey is a competition that Barcelona always tend to perform well in, though, given that they have won it four seasons running since losing 2-1 to Real Madrid in a memorable 2013-14 final in Valencia.
Barca are the most successful side ever in the competition, winning it 30 times in total and reaching the final an incredible 41 times.
As it turns out, the Catalan club’s only other final defeat this decade also came at Valencia’s home when losing 1-0 to Madrid in 2011.
Losing finals is not something that tends to happen when Barcelona are involved and, having won the La Liga title with such ease, they will head into this match as strong favourites to secure the domestic double for a ninth time.
Unlike in 2009 and 2015, though, there will be no Champions League to add to those crowns. That, ultimately, is what the 2018-19 campaign will be best remembered for.
Valencia finished fourth in the La Liga standings to ensure that Champions League football will be played at the Mestalla next season, and Marcelino will now be looking to pull off a major upset to add an eighth Copa del Rey to the collection.
Los Che finished their league campaign with three wins in a row, scoring 11 goals during that run as they held off Getafe for the fourth and final Champions League spot.
However, Valencia were dealt a major blow in the Europa League earlier this month as, like Barcelona, they suffered a semi-final defeat on the continent to English opposition.
Arsenal won the first leg 3-1 and followed that up with a 4-2 victory in Spain, which only highlighted Valencia’s defensive frailties in recent weeks.
Three goals were also conceded against Atletico Madrid, a couple against Huesca and another against Alaves. Despite keeping just two clean sheets in 13 matches at the end of the season, though, only Barcelona can boast a better defensive record in the Spanish top flight.
Valencia only lost seven league games all season and went unbeaten across their two matches with Barcelona, so Valverde’s men will know that nothing can be taken for granted.
On their run to the final, Valencia have seen off Ebro, Sporting Gijon, Getafe and Real Betis, earning a 3-2 aggregate victory over the latter to make it all the way for the first time since 2008 when beating Getafe 3-1 to lift the cup.
That was the most recent of Los Che’s seven Copa triumphs, which places them fifth in terms of the competition’s most successful clubs, behind Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona.
Victory this evening would top each of those past successes, while also potentially hammering the final nail into Valverde’s coffin.
Barcelona Clement Lenglet has been talking about today’s Copa del Rey final against Valencia and says that Barcelona are aiming to win in order to finish the season on a high.
Valverde’s side will be hoping to do the double for a second year running by beating Valencia, and Lenglet is keen for the team put aside their Champions League disappointment.
“It’s not easy to reach the final of any competition. We suffered a lot along the way but now we can win another title and we’ll do everything we can to make sure we do,” he said.
“These are not easy times either for the FC Barcelona players or fans after getting knocked out of the Champions League.
“We’re hoping to get our game back in time for such an important match. It’s the last game of the season and we want to go off on our holidays on a high.”
Lenglet was part of the Sevilla team thrashed 5-0 by Barcelona last season, but he will be hoping he can be on the winning side this season and win the Copa del Rey for the first time in his career.
Meanwhile, Juan Antonio Pizzi believes that this weekend’s Copa del Rey final will be a close-fought contest but expects Lionel Messi to be key, given Barcelona’s recent dependance on him. The former Chile boss finds the tie hard to call, but thinks his former player Arturo Vidal has a part to play.
“Undoubtedly, the Champions League blow can have a big impact on them but I think they’ve performed very well this season. They won LaLiga Santander with games to spare and got to the Copa del Rey final.”
“They’ve grown more and more happy and qualified for the Champions League again so now they want to win the Copa del Rey. It’ll be a close match.”
Asked if Messi will be too isolated considering that Barcelona will be without Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele and maybe Philippe Coutinho.
“If you look at the squad you see some of the best players in the world around Messi, but it’s true that they’ve been completely dependent on him at times. He’s central for them. The team that uses it best will win. Barcelona’s main weapon is control, so Valencia will want to take it away from them,” he said.
Barcelona are chasing a fifth consecutive triumph today with Valencia in their first final in 11 years.