Defending champions FC Barcelona have virtually sealed their berth in the final of the 2015-16 Copa del Rey. There is no way Valencia could score 8 goals against Barca in the return-leg match even with the advantage of playing on home turf on February 10. The final of this season’s Copa del Rey will be played sometime in May 2016 at a venue that is still not finalized. On Wednesday, Barcelona’s runaway victory was brought about by hat-tricks from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. The first leg of the other semifinal will be played on Thursday night between Sevilla and Celta Vigo.
Copa del Rey was founded 113 years ago and it is Spain’s oldest football competition. The tournament’s historical roots lie in its start for the celebration of King Alfonso XIII’s coronation and its first edition in 1903 included just four teams; Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Club Espanol de Football, New Football de Madrid and Club Bizcaya. While other Clubs have become defunct, Real Madrid and Barcelona have continued. Freely translated into English, Copa del Rey means the King’s Club and its full Spanish name is Campeonato de Espana – Copa de Su Majestad el Rey. The English translation is Championship of Spain-Cup of His Majesty the King. It is also called La Copa.
This year’s tournament began in September 2015 with 83 Spanish Clubs playing in the first round, 65 in the second and 43 in the third round until the tournament reached the round-of-32 in December 2015. The round-of-16 and quarterfinals were played in January 2016 and now the competition is down to the last four teams; FC Barcelona, Valencia Sevilla and Celto Vigo. Real Madrid suffered an ignominy of disqualification for fielding an ineligible player. Out of several counts on which Rafa Benitez lost his job, his role in including Russian winger Denis Cheryshev in the match against Cadiz on December 2, 2015 was considered as an act of bigger negligence.
Coming back to the game between Barcelona and Valencia last night at Camp Nou, Barcelona dominated from the very start. Valencia coach Gary Neville included six defenders in his team but his plan went haywire. In a 5th minute counter-attack, Neymar moved quickly and found Suarez in a great position. The Uruguayan didn’t falter. 5 minutes later, Sergio Busquets sent an exquisite aerial ball that was collected by Aleix Vidal, who also found Suarez for a powerful finish. With a 2-0 lead within 12 minutes, Barca kept the possession of ball with them and prevented Valencia from creating any chances. Third goal was a smart finish by Messi from a back-heeled pass by Neymar in the 29th minute. Messi almost scored his second goal soon after Suarez sent the ball to the Argentinian but Messi’s attempt hit the crossbar.
Just before halftime, Neymar missed a penalty but after the break, goals kept coming at regular intervals. In the 58th minute, Arda Turan passed the ball to Suarez, who saw Messi in a great position. He sent the ball to him with a smart flick and the world’s no.1 football star ran through the box before beautifully depositing the ball in the corner. It was the Messi show again as he finished his hat-trick in the 74th minute with his signature style. Neymar’s cross was anything but perfect as it went to Valencia’s Dani Parejo. But Messi stole the ball from him and after adjusting himself in the goal area fired a rocket out of reach for the Valencia goalkeeper. Barca didn’t rest content with the 5-0 lead and Suarez scored two more goals in 83rd and 88th minutes. The first one came from Messi passing beautifully to Adriano, who lobbed the ball to Suarez for the finish and the hat-trick. Suarez’s fourth goal came when he received a through ball from Arda Turan and fired a bomb into the near corner.
Neymar couldn’t score on Wednesday and he missed a penalty as well. It could easily have been a bigger than the 7-0 win that FC Barcelona settled for. If they reach the final next Wednesday, they will await for the winner of the second semifinal between Sevilla and Celta Vigo.