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The Copa del Rey action is hotting up again this week with the first legs of the semi finals to be played, and the teams involved know they are only 180 minutes of football away from the final. There are two big matches to be played as the first legs get underway in midweek, with all-conquering Barcelona set to take on Gary Neville’s under-performing Valencia side at the Nou Camp on Wednesday night. The other tie sees two great La Liga sides Sevilla and Celta Vigo go head-to-head, and that one promises to be a much tighter affair than the former match.
There was a brief scare for Barcelona last week in the second leg of the quarter final as Athletic Bilbao leveled the tie on aggregate with a 12th minute goal at the Nou Camp, but Barca came storming back in typical fashion with Suarez, Pique and Neymar on the second-half scoresheet to give them a 5-2 victory on aggregate. Valencia have been woeful in the league, but continued their good cup form with a 1-0 win at Las Palmas to record a slender 2-1 aggregate victory to set up this clash.
Sevilla paid off for our bet last week with a comfortable 3-0 away win at Segunda League Mirandes, giving the aggregate score a nice 5-0 gloss in the process. Celta Vigo meanwhile, completed the shock of the night with a 3-2 away win at Atletico Madrid to earn their place in this semi final, much to the ire of Diego Simeone.
Barcelona v Valencia
That would require the Catalans to win by three clear goals, which is a tall order for most sides, but you could never put it past a Barca team which has scored three goals or more in 5 of its last 10 matches. They are also up against a poor Valencia team managed by former Manchester United player Gary Neville, and that looks like a relationship on the brink of collapse.
Valencia are a lowly 12th in La Liga table and they haven’t managed a win in the league since November. All of their recent victories have come in the cup, but with all due respect, the likes of Barakaldo, Granada and Las Palmas are not in the same bracket as Barcelona. The cup so far has been Neville’s only saving grace with many of the Valencia faithful unhappy with the lack of progress under his tenure, and the 1-0 home defeat to relegation-threatened Sporting Gijon saw them sink to a new low. Neville may have hoped that winning the cup and qualifying for Europe would have saved face, but that looks distinctly unlikely now that they come up against the powerful Barca. They’ve lost on nine of their last ten visits here, and perhaps their best hope is to keep the scoreline low enough that they have a chance in the second leg back on home soil.
Barcelona will have other ideas of course, and Luis Enrique will be all too aware of the hectic league schedule he has coming up, as well as a two-legged tie against Arsenal in the Champions League. In an ideal world he would surely like to put this tie to bed in 90 minutes so he has the luxury of resting players for the return leg next week.
It’s impossible to find fault with Barcelona’s recent form statistics; They’ve won 11 of the last 12 games in all competitions and you have to go back to the start of October to find the last time they tasted defeat. The home form is even more impressive, and they’ve won 18 of the last 19 at the Nou Camp with only a surprise 2-2 draw with Deportivo la Coruna punctuating that record. The last seven at home have included 6-0, 4-0, 4-1, and 4-0 scorelines – each of which would have been good enough for the recommended bet to land.
Expect Valencia to make a fight of keeping it defensive, but expect them to be overwhelmed by Barca’s talent.
Sevilla v Celta Vigo
Despite a poor start to the season, Sevilla have come on strong in recent months and they’re now 5th in the table and have both this competition and their Europa League defence to look forward to. They’re on a run of seven wins in eight games, will look to get an advantage on home soil before next week’s away leg. They’ve been even more impressive at home where they’ve won 11 games in a row, and the last time they were defeated was in a Champions League tie with Manchester City.
Celta Vigo meanwhile have been the model of inconsistency over the last couple of months, and they’ve lost five of the last six league games. They’ve been making up for it in the cup somewhat though, beating Cadiz home and away and holding Atletico Madrid to a 0-0 at home before recording that special away victory last week. They will be no pushover here, but with Sevilla’s impeccable home record it’s hard to back against them in front of their own fans.
Barcelona -2.5 to beat Valencia, Asian Handicap
Wednesday 3rd February, 19:30 GMT
Sevilla to beat Celta Vigo
Thursday 4th February, 20:30 GMT
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