Most fans would assume the winner of the Copa del Rey quarter-final between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona would go on to be the clear favorite for the remainder of the Spanish cup competition. And after Barcelona defeat Atletico over two legs, supporters and experts penciled in the Catalan club as the tournament’s champions. Especially since the other side of the semi-final draw sees Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol pitted against each other – two clubs which trail Barcelona by 20+ points on the La Liga table.
But what stands in the way of Barcelona winning its record 27th Copa del Rey title is a semi-final encounter with Villarreal.
Just ten days ago these two clubs faced off at the Camp Nou with Barcelona slightly edging out Villarreal by a score of 3-2.
Programming note: The first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final between Barcelona and Villarreal will be shown LIVE today starting at 1:55pm EST on beIN SPORTS and DishWorld.
Leading into that contest, Villarreal were unbeaten in eighteen straight matches in all competitions and had been entertaining their supporters with some fantastic football.
The attacking trio of Gio dos Santos, Denis Cheryshev and Luciano Vietto have been the Yellow Submarine’s version of Real Madrid’s ‘BBC’ and Barcelona’s ‘MSN’. And when Villarreal’s trident stepped on to the pitch at the Camp Nou ten days ago, they were ready to go head to head with Messi, Suarez and Neymar.
Cheryshev cleverly deflected an errant shot by a teammate past Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to give Villarreal a 1-0 lead in the 30th minute. But just before halftime Neymar would bring the sides level with right-footed shot from a rebound.
At the start of the second half, Vietto regained the lead for Villarreal after he converted a pass from Dos Santos to make the score 2-1 in the 51st minute.
That advantage turned out to be short-lived as Rafinha once again brought the two clubs level in the 55th minute.
Messi would go on to score the eventual game-winner two minutes later. But the match featured amazing attacks from both sides and was one of the more entertaining fixtures of the Spanish campaign.
If today’s first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final at the Camp Nou is anything like the contest between the two sides from ten days ago, it will make for ‘Must See TV’.
Even if Barcelona were to repeat their earlier 3-2 victory, the away goals would prove vital for Villarreal in the return leg at El Madrigal.
Dos Santos, Cheryshev and Vietto were rested last weekend during the Yellow Submarine’s 2-0 victory over Granada. So it appears Villarreal boss Marcelino is once again preparing to have a go at the giant Catalan club on their home pitch.
Villarreal poise a serious threat to Barcelona’s Copa del Rey aspirations.
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