Encouraging as the mighty Barcelona’s recent record in the Copa del Rey finals is – they’ve won four of the last five – there is, however, something that is a bit concerning about the setting for this year’s title decider.
For one, they are playing Valencia, who are one of the most in-form teams not only in La Liga but indeed the entire Europe (they are also in the Europa League semis); and also, the final will be played at the Benito Villamarin, a ground which, if recent history is anything to go by, has become something like Los Che’s second home.
Sunday’s 2-1 win over Real Betis in a La Liga match came less than a month after they had come from being 2-0 down to earn a 2-all draw in the Copa semis against the selfsame Betis, at the very same Villamarin Stadium. The manner in which they won Sunday’s match was also quite impressive, although not necessarily pleasing to watch.
They won ugly, having absorbed the pressure that the home team applied with their pretty, possession football, and struck twice against the run of play. For a Culer like myself, it always becomes a cause for slight concern when a team is able to do that as well as Valencia did, given Barça similar possession-based style.
But their defensive abilities is not the only weapon they have, of course, because there’s also the small matter of Gonçalo Guedes, their red-hot Portuguese striker who is scoring for fun these days. It was his brace that helped his team beat Betis on the weekend.
But apart from Guedes they also have other potent strikers like Rodrigo Moreno and Kevin Gameiro, as well as sharp brains like Carlos Soler and captain fantastic Dani Parejo in the middle of the park.
Over and above that, they have also proven their ability to stand up to Barça. Lionel Messi was forced to come to his team’s rescue for the umpteenth time when the teams met at the Camp Nou in February, as his brace salvaged a draw after Marcelino’s men had taken a 2-0 lead.
It sure promises to be fireworks in this year’s final on May 25, given Barça’s own good form and overall record in the Cup. They do have a record 30 titles and, of course, have won the cup consecutively in the last four years.
May the Villamarin, for a change, reward the pretty football.