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Wednesday, 01 April 2020

Barca out to sink Villarreal Cup final dreams

AFP , Wednesday 4 Mar 2015
Barcelona's Messi is congratulated by teammates Suarez and Neymar (Photo: Reuters)
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Views: 548

Barcelona have one eye on a potential treble when they take a 3-1 lead into the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final against Villarreal on Wednesday.

The Catalans have their La Liga fate back in their own hands thanks to Villarreal holding Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw on Saturday and seem well set for the last eight of the Champions League after beating Manchester City 2-1 away in the first leg of their last 16 tie last week.

The next month will go a long way to deciding the fate of Luis Enrique's men as City visit the Camp Nou on March 18 before Madrid make the same journey four days later.

However, Enrique is determined his star-studded squad do not take their eye off the ball at El Madrigal despite their healthy advantage in the tie.

"I am concentrating on the game against Villarreal, it doesn't matter if it is the most difficult month. We will do what we have in every game and that is focus on the opponent in front of us."

The former Barca captain did though admit that his team selection may be affected by the fact the on-form Luis Suarez and Javier Mascherano are one booking away from missing the final.

"It is something to bear in mind," he added.

 In-form Villarreal

"A final is in play and it is interesting but it doesn't condition the game. To be able to play the final you have to get through the semi-final."

Villarreal have enjoyed a fantastic season so far as they too are still involved on three fronts.

The Yellow Submarine lie sixth in La Liga, progressed to the last 16 of the Europa League with a 5-2 aggregate victory over Red Bull Salzburg last week and now have a first Copa del Rey final in their history within reach.

Yet, they have been beaten by Barca in all three of their previous meetings this season and Enrique expects a more offensive threat from the hosts on Wednesday.

"The Villarreal I have seen in the league isn't the Villarreal that have faced us in three games. I think they play with the ball less when they play against us.

"I think tomorrow we will see a more offensive version than we have seen in the three games this season and they have nothing to lose."

Villarreal boss Marcelino was insistent after Saturday's draw at the Bernabeu that his decision to make seven changes from the side that started in Salzburg had been vindicated.

A host of first-team regulars including top-scorer Luciano Vietto and on-loan Madrid winger Dennis Cheryshev will return against Barca and Marcelino believes they can score the goals needed to pull off a huge upset.

"We are capable of causing Barcelona problems," he said.

"We hit the post against them three times earlier this season and lost.

"I hope that this time luck and our play allow us to get to the final, but, like against Real Madrid, we are playing against the best in the world."

In the other semi-final, Espanyol hold the upper hand as they host Athletic Bilbao with the cushion of an away goal after a 1-1 draw in the first leg three weeks ago.

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