Barcelona 1-2 Valencia: Copa del Rey winners thank Marcelino for making them a force again, while Barca question the authority of Ernesto Valverde

27 May

It’s said that domestic cup finals aren’t given the importance they once had, but Valencia captain Dani Parejo obviously didn’t get the memo. As the midfielder hobbled, tears streaming down his face, to collect the Copa del Rey from the King of Spain and lift Los Che’s first trophy in 11 years, the picture the midfielder painted was anything but passive.

Beyond the individual emotions, cup finals can still be significant in their pivotal nature. That was the case the last time someone upset one of LaLiga’s big two in the Copa del Rey, back in 2013, when Atlético Madrid beat Real Madrid in their own backyard and fired of a warning shot that showed it could be time to take the Colchoneros seriously again as a domestic force. A prophecy that was fulfilled one year later when they won LaLiga against all the odds.

Valencia pulled off an almighty shock to crush Barcelona’s double dream
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Equally, Valencia’s 2-1 win over Barça feels like a point of inflection in a number of ways. Most obviously, it is a key marker for the victors, certifying their most successful season since the golden era of Rafa Benitez, making 2019 a year in which Champions League football, a domestic trophy and a European semi-final were all achieved.

Valencia have a squad built to achieve big things, and in the year of the club’s centenary the pressure to fulfil that potential and deliver silverware was huge. The expectations resting on the long misfiring club in Spain’s third city on this landmark year should not be underestimated. Their players and coach will have been reminded of it every day, in every human reaction they have. Parejo’s choked up comments, pitchside at final whistle, provided a glimpse into that weight.

Messi pulled one back but it was not enough following a disastrous first-half
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“I’ve been at this club for eight years, and there have been really tough years. A club of Valencia’s size deserves far more joyous occasions like this. We’ve made history in a huge year for us, our centenary,” the captain remarked.

Only four months ago, 2019 looked like it would be another of those tough years for Valencia. In January, when they sat an embarrassing 12th in the league table, Marcelino’s position was in serious doubt. But Parejo led the rallying cry, sending a message from the dressing room to the people upstairs. Embracing his coach during a match against Valladolid for the eyes of the world to see, the next day he hammered home the message, insisting that a season shouldn’t be treated as lost in January, and that there was ‘time and hunger necessary to reach our goals’.

With the players as his shield, Marcelino wasn’t sacked. Valencia ultimately finished fourth, and they are now cup winners. All thanks to the backing of a squad that fully bought into the ideas being sold by their coach, to the extent that they were prepared to put their own necks on the line to save his. Based on their resilience this year, they could yet push on to achieve even bigger things in 2020.

Will Barcelona’s players be prepared to stick out their necks for their own boss? Ernesto Valverde has just defended the league title, but following an era of dominance the expectations at the Camp Nou are so huge that the Blaugrana head has undoubtedly been hurt by Saturday’s defeat, compounding the damage done by their slip-up against Liverpool. If Valencia’s win was a turning point in the right direction, then Barcelona’s loss could be the one that sends Valverde in the other.

Marcelino is doing a remarkable job with Valencia, making them a force once more
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Much like the way they let the Champions League final slip through their fingers at Anfield, it is the manner in which Barcelona lost against Valencia which really raises the alarm. Look no further than the three remnants of their greatest team ever for evidence: it is not often than Sergio Busquets repeatedly gives the ball away, Gerard Piqué sends a switch of play straight out for an opposition throw, and Lionel Messi fails to find Jordi Alba on the overlap with a diagonal pass he has completed countless times before.

But that is exactly what happened to Barça in their disastrous first half this weekend. A mad 45 minutes to match a mad 45 minutes in Anfield, and a mad 45 minutes in Rome the year before. Three times where Barcelona’s players just didn’t look like they were buying whatever their coach was trying to sell. Valencia’s determination and commitment until the end in Seville was a stark contrast.

Valverde’s future is a source of constant speculation, could he go this summer?
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Piqué’s post-match flash interview on Saturday was telling. Handed the chance to give the vote of confidence to his superior, the centre-back stopped somewhere halfway. “You have to do an individual analysis on everyone, what we can improve. The future of the coach doesn’t depend on us. We have a long summer to analyse and see what we can do better”.

Compare that to Parejo’s human shield of Marcelino back in the winter, and draw your own conclusions. While the Copa del Rey winners now look to be at the start of something special, the resurgence of one of Spain’s sleeping giants finally kicking off thanks to backing the right manager for the right time, the losers have a tough call to make. Faced with a summer of some considerable transition against a backdrop of criticism, is it time to intervene, or does their manager have the authority necessary to weather the storm?

Lionel Messi: Every record the Barcelona superstar has broken in 2019

25 May

Lionel Messi just keeps on breaking records.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner guided Barcelona to LaLiga glory in 2018/19 – their seventh title in 11 years,

Lionel Messi will go down as one of the best players of all time
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His season ended in disappointment on Sunday night as Valencia beat Barca 2-1 in the Copa del Rey final but Messi was once again on the scoresheet.

Messi turns 32 in June, but there is no sign of him slowing down.

The Argentina international netted 51 goals what has been another incredibly prolific campaign.

Here, talkSPORT look at the milestones Messi has reached since the turn of the year.

Broke the 40-goal mark for a 10th consecutive season

Messi scored his 39th and 40th goals of the season in a 2-0 win over Espanyol in March. He has always passed the 40-goal mark since netting 47 times in the 2008/09 campaign. He netted 51 goals in total, with 36 coming in LaLiga, 12 in the Champions League and three in the Copa del Rey.

Moved past Andres Iniesta for all-time Barcelona appearances

Messi‘s 675th game for Barcelona against Espanyol in March saw him leapfrog legendary midfielder Iniesta into second for all-time appearances for the club. Now, Messi is on 687 and is chasing down Xavi’s 767 record.

Lionel Messi scored a stunning free-kick against Liverpool in the Champions League earlier this month
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Reached 600-goal milestone

Messi scored his 600th goal for Barcelona by netting a stunning 25-yard free-kick against Liverpool in the Champions League earlier this month.

Converted his 50th LaLiga penalty for Barcelona

Messi scored his 50th penalty in Spain’s top-flight when he converted from the spot against Valencia in February. Only former Real Madrid stars Hugo Sanchez (56) and Cristiano Ronaldo (61) have scored more.

Fastest player in Europe to reach 20 league goals

Messi’s penalty against Valencia also saw him hit 20 league goals faster than any player in Europe’s top five divisions. It was the 11th season in a row where he’d scored 20 goals.

First player to score 400 LaLiga goals

Messi scored his 400th LaLiga goal in just 435 appearances during Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Eibar in January. Barca boss Ernesto Valverde heaped praise on his star man on yet another historic night.

Lionel Messi is Barcelona’s all-time top scorer on 602 goals
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He said: “But 400 is ridiculous. It’s easy to say it, but if you stack [the goals] one after the other. The numbers are stratospheric, incredible. Messi is an extraordinary player from another galaxy.”

Most LaLiga wins

Messi surpassed Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas’ 334 LaLiga wins after scoring in a 2-0 win against Atletico Madrid in April. The winger is on 339 victories and counting.

Watch Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid highlights as Malcom cancels out Lucas Vazquez’s strike in Copa Del Rey semi-final

6 Feb

Malcom’s second-half strike rescued a draw Barcelona in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final against Real Madrid at the Nou Camp on Wednesday night.

In the first of three games between the two Spanish giants over the next 24 days, it was the visitors who took an early lead when Lucas Vazquez netted after just six minutes.

But Malcom, who started in place of Lionel Messi, levelled shortly before the hour mark to keep Barcelona in the tie as they bid to win the competition for a fifth consecutive year.

Messi, carrying a minor leg injury, was named on the Barcelona bench by manager Ernesto Valverde.

For the visitors Gareth Bale, who returned from a calf injury in Real’s 3-0 win over Alaves last weekend, had to be content with a place among the substitutes on Wednesday night.

Real are making their first appearance at this stage of the Copa del Rey since they beat Barcelona in the final nearly five years ago.

Lucas Vazquez opened the scoring at the Camp Nou

And it was Santiago Solari’s side who secured the perfect start after they took the lead inside just six minutes.

Vinicius Junior was the creator, carrying the ball down Real’s left-hand side before finding Karim Benzema in the Barcelona area.

The France forward chested down Vinicius’s cross before pulling the ball back for Vazquez who made no mistake from a handful of yards out.

Real may be eight points adrift of their rivals in La Liga, but they were the quickest out of the traps, and had chances to double their lead in the opening period.

Sergio Ramos collected his customary booking in El Clasico

Yet Barcelona began to ease their way back into the first leg, and shortly after the half-hour mark struck the woodwork.

Malcom’s free-kick found Ivan Rakitic, but his header rattled off the bar.

The hosts went into the interval with a one-goal disadvantage, but 12 minutes after the break were back on level terms.

Jordi Alba was played in on Barcelona’s left-hand channel, only to meet a fast-charging Keylor Navas who looked to have averted the danger.

The ball, however, fell to Luis Suarez and, from an impossible angle, the former Liverpool man’s strike hit the post. With Navas still scrambling back towards his own goal, the rebound fell to Malcom who fired the ball home.

Malcom celebrates with his Barca teammates

Moments later, Messi was introduced and so, too, Bale. Messi’s impact appeared immediate and Barcelona were in the ascendancy.

But the home side failed to muster up a clear-cut opening and it was Bale who had the best opportunity to win the match in the final 10 minutes.

Marc-Andre Ter Stegen charged out from his area but his clearance fell only to Benzema, who was quick to find Bale.

But, with Ter Stegen out of his goal, Bale was slow to react, his first touch was wayward and his shot was blocked and cleared.

Is Barcelona vs Real Madrid on TV tonight? Details for Copa del Rey tie, live stream and team news

5 Feb

El Clasico rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid go head-to-head in the Copa del Rey semi-finals tonight.

The two haven’t faced each other in the cup competition since 2014 when Real won that final 2-1 in Valencia thanks to Gareth Bale’s stunning 85th-minute winner.

Bale’s solo goal won Real the Copa del Rey in 2014 when Barca were beaten 2-1

Barcelona exacted revenge for that defeat, winning every Copa del Rey since, including last season’s 5-0 triumph over Sevilla.

The victor of this season’s two-legged semi-final will face either Valencia or Real Betis in the final in Seville on May 25.

Barcelona vs Real Madrid: When is the first leg?

Barcelona will welcome Real Madrid to the Nou Camp on Wednesday, February 6. The match will kick off at 8pm UK time, 9pm in Spain.

The return tie will take place at the Bernabeu on Wednesday, February 27, kicking off at the same time.

Real Madrid star Gareth Bale

Barcelona vs Real Madrid: What TV channel is it on and can I live stream it?

Eleven Sports have the rights to La Liga coverage in the UK this season and have now secured the rights tonight’s Copa del Rey clash as well.

The company had to battle hard to get the match but have done so and you can purchase a monthly subscription to watch it for £5.99.

talkSPORT will have all the latest news and analysis on the clash and find out more by clicking here.

Barcelona also offer an English commentary stream on their official club website.

Barcelona won the Copa Del Rey last season

Barcelona vs Real Madrid: Team news

Barca icon Lionel Messi could miss El Clasico for the second time in a row after picking up a knock to his thigh in Saturday’s draw with Valencia.

Boss Ernesto Valverde said: “I don’t know exactly what he has. We will have to wait to see what medical staff say. If he’s in good shape, he’ll play on Wednesday.”

Copa del Rey goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen is out with a calf injury, meaning regular stopper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen could be in line to play.

Only Jesus Vallejo and Luca Zidane are set to miss out for Real Madrid.

Barcelona vs Real Madrid: Rivals drawn against each other to provide El Clasico Copa del Rey semi-final

1 Feb

Barcelona and Real Madrid have been drawn against each other in the semi-final of the Copa del Rey.

The first leg of the tie will be played at the Camp Nou on February 6 or 7 with the second then being held at the Santiago Bernabeu on February 27 or 28.

Barcelona and Real Madrid were drawn together in the Copa del Rey – Real were beaten 5-1 in their previous encounter

Barcelona came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Sevilla 6-3 in their quarter-final clash and will be aiming to add a fifth consecutive Copa del Rey.

Madrid made it to the last four by scoring seven past Girona over two legs to reach the semi-final stage for the first time since 2014.

Bale’s solo goal won Real the Copa del Rey in 2014 when Barca were beaten 2-1

The last time the two sides met in the cup was in 2014, in the final, when Madrid won 2-1 after goals from Angel Di Maria and Gareth Bale.

In La Liga, there are currently 10 points separating the two sides with the Catalan club having the sizeable lead at the summit.

Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick as they thrashed Madrid 5-1 during their previous encounter this season, which led to manager Julen Lopetegui losing his job.

Real Betis and Valencia were drawn together in the other semi-final.

Barcelona may be kicked out of Copa del Rey for allegedly fielding ineligible Juan ‘Chumi’ Brandariz against Levante

17 Jan

Barcelona could be expelled from this season’s Copa del Rey after they allegedly fielded an ineligible player.

Defender Juan Brandariz, who is better known as ‘Chumi’, started in Barca’s first leg tie at Levante last Thursday – a game the Catalan club lost 2-1.

Chumi (top row and second from left), was allegedly suspended for the cup tie he started

However, Chumi, who was substituted for Clement Lenglet in the 58th minute, was subject to a suspension from the Spanish FA (RFEF) after receiving his fifth booking of the season in the Segunda B.

Barca did not realise he was given a yellow card against Castellon on the Sunday before the cup tie and could now face a pointless second leg clash at the Nou Camp if they end up being kicked out of the competition.

Real Madrid were disqualified in December 2015 when they played Russian winger Denis Cheryshev against Cadiz not realising he was suspended after picking up a ban while on loan at Villarreal.

Article 76 of the RFEF’s disciplinary code states: “To the club that sets an ineligible line-up with a footballer who does not comply with the regulations to be able to participate in a game, this will be given as a defeat, declaring the opponent the winner by a score of three goals to zero, unless the winning margin was greater.

“In the case of a knockout tie, it will be resolved in favour of the opponent.

However, according to El Mundo, Barcelona sources are launching a defence even though Real were thrown out after appealing in the Cheryshev case.

Barca’s defence is based on a memo entitled circular 28 which claims Chumi’s suspension was not applicable because he earned it through multiple yellow cards rather than a straight red. The case continues.

Ernesto Valverde’s men could be disqualified in embarrassing fashion