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Before Liga clash, Barca & Atletico aims to advance in Copa

26 January 2016, 21:40

Barcelona - Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will both look to seal their spots in the Copa del Rey's semifinals on Wednesday ahead of their highly-anticipated Spanish league clash.

Barcelona hosts Athletic Bilbao after the cup-holders beat last year's finalist 2-1 in their first-leg quarterfinal.

Atletico has the more difficult task of eliminating Celta Vigo after drawing 0-0 away.

Also read: Hit-and-miss Man City seek League comeback

Three days later, Atletico will travel to Camp Nou trailing Barcelona on goal difference at the top of La Liga's standings.

Thursday's quarterfinals will feature Valencia needing to turn around a 1-1 draw when it visits Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, while Sevilla takes a 2-0 advantage to second-division Mirandes.

Here are some more things to know about this week's Copa del Rey matches:


Barcelona is closing in on a club record set by former coach Pep Guardiola, who kept the team undefeated for 28 consecutive games in the 2010-11 season.

After a stellar debut season that ended with the team matching Guardiola's rare treble of Champions League, Spanish league and Copa del Rey titles, coach Luis Enrique has guided his team to 24 games without a loss before hosting Bilbao.

Barcelona will look to make good on first-leg goals by Neymar and Munir El Haddadi, who scored before Aritz Aduriz gave the Basques a lifeline.

Lionel Messi missed the opening leg due to muscle pain, but returned to score the winning goal in Saturday's 2-1 victory at Malaga in the league.

Neymar is doubtful for the second leg after being ruled out of the Malaga match because of muscle pain.


Only Barcelona, with 27 cups, can boast more success in the competition than Bilbao, which has won the tournament 23 times.

But Bilbao faces a daunting challenge at a stadium where it hasn't won since November 2001.

Barcelona is unbeaten in all 17 home games this season and crushed Bilbao 6-0 at Camp Nou in the league less than two weeks ago.

Ernesto Valverde's team can cling to its upset of Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup to start the season, when it secured a 1-1 away draw after stunning the European champions 4-0 at San Mames.


A draw with goals would suffice for Celta to eliminate Atletico, but Diego Simeone's team is expert at keeping a clean sheet.

Atletico hasn't conceded a goal in five straight matches and has only allowed one in its last nine games.

While Jan Oblak has emerged as the league's top goalkeeper, Miguel Moya has been Simeone's pick for the Copa del Rey, where he has let two goals past him in five outings.


Gary Neville's coaching career has gotten off to a rocky start.

Since the former Manchester United defender took over in December, Valencia has been eliminated from the Champions League and has yet to win in seven Spanish league matches.

But the Copa del Rey has been another story, where it won three straight until last week's slip at home against Las Palmas.

In 11th place and 16 points from the Champions league positions, Valencia's only shot at salvaging the season is in the cup.

"The wins will come," Neville said after a 1-1 draw at Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday. "The fans want victories and I am desperate to give them to them."

- AP


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