Barça chases 5th Copa in row, Valencia seeks to cap off century celebration
Barcelona's forward Leo Messi reacts during the UEFA Champions League first leg semifinal match between FC Barcelona and Liverpool in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, May 1, 2019. EPA-EFE FILE/ Alberto Estevez
Barcelona/Valencia May 24 (efe-epa).- Barcelona will fight for a record fifth Copa del Rey title in a row at the expense of Valencia, which, in turn, look to mark a centenary year in winning fashion by bagging its Copa trophy in over a decade.
At Seville’s Benito Villamarin stadium, Barcelona will be on the hunt of its ninth domestic double, while Valencia dreams of repeating its success in 2008, when it defeated Getafe at Madrid’s Vicente Calderon stadium.
Some of Barcelona's fans do not share the confidence shown by the club's officials and players, given the club's recent calamitous exit from the UEGA Champions League from an inform giant slayer. The Catalan club has already said that it has faith in coach Ernesto Valverde.
Valverde, who is also seeking out his second double, is hoping more than anyone else to hoist the title while putting on a performance similar to the one that enabled them to thrash Sevilla 5-0 a year ago in the cup final after being knocked out of the Champions League.
Arriving to the 2019 edition of the Spanish cup amid similar circumstances, then, Barcelona is also missing several key players, including Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.
Valverde has several options in the midfield and in attack, Arthur Melo, Philippe Coutinho and Arturo Vidal.
The rest of the starting lineup seems to be sorted out as Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillesse is expected to be under the crossbar as he has been at the Copa del Rey, with Marc Andre Ter Stegen being left out of the squad due to injury.
In the defense line, Valverde is expected to count on Sergio Roberto or Nelson Semedo, Gerard Pique, Lenglet and Jordi Alba.
Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Buquets seem to have secured a place in the starting lineup for Saturday’s game.
Arthur Melo has seen his role decrease in the decisive matches of the season, as happened in both games against Liverpool in the Champions League.
Valverde, however, sent him onto the field in the final stretch of the second leg with the aim of controlling the midfield, something Barcelona failed to achieve.
Valencia, meanwhile, will play the final relieved, having secured a Champions League berth for the upcoming season on the final 2018/2019 La Liga matchday.
To that end, Valencia has had to come a long way, having gone into the winter break with 10-point disadvantage, which combined with its Europa League run and Copa del Rey came at a price of fatigue the team has been struggling with lately.
Beside fatigue and relief, Valencia faces the match with the hope it can put an end to a decade-long trophy drought.
Over 20,000 fans will head to Seville, mainly on train and buses, to support the team, while two huge screens are to be set up in Valencia so that other thousands of fans can watch the game together.
On the pitch, Valencia’s coach Marcelino García Toral can finally count on two of his key players; central defender Ezequiel Garay and midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia.
While Garay has said he is ready to play, Kondogbia acknowledged that after being sideline for a month with an injury he has yet to regain top form, which could make coach think twice before taking any risks.
Russia Denis Cheryshev will be on the sideline due to a knee injury he sustained a month ago while South Korea’s Kang In Lee will miss the game as he joined his U20 national team.
Toral is expected to play Gabriel Paulista, Jose Luis Gaya, Dani Parejo, Gonçalo Guedes and Rodrigo Moreno in the starting lineup as well as goalkeeper Jaume Domenech.
Throughout the season, the Spanish goalkeeper has been on the bench in La Liga, Champions League and Europa League, but he has started all the cup games.
Down the right side, it is not clear whether the coach will count on Cristiano Piccini or Daniel Wass as fullback and Carlos Soler or Francis Coquelin as winger.
Coquelin has regularly started against powerful teams in a bid to muscle up the midfield, but it would depend in this case on whether or not Kondogbia will start.
FC Barcelona: Cillessen; Sergi Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arturo Vidal; Malcom, Messi and Coutinho.
Valencia: Jaume Domenech; Piccini or Wass, Garay, Paulista, Gaya, Wass or Carlos Soler, Coquelin, Parejo, Guedes, Rodrigo and Gameiro.
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco.
Venue: The Benito Villamarín stadium. EFE