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Valencia visits Barcelona in Copa del Rey semifinals

Just looking to stay alive, Valencia is heading to Barcelona in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals

Valencia visits Barcelona in Copa del Rey semifinals

MADRID (AP) -- Just looking to stay alive, Valencia is heading to Barcelona in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals.

The team led by Gary Neville is putting everything it has in the Copa del Rey, the only tournament it has a chance of winning in what has been a disappointing season so far. To succeed, it will have to get past the hottest team in Spain, and the first step will be to survive Wednesday's game at the Camp Nou, where Barcelona has won six in a row and has yet to lose this season.

The goal will be to get to the second leg in Valencia with a realistic chance of advancing to the final.

"They have been playing well for a very long time, it will be very difficult," Valencia midfielder Javi Fuego said. "The good thing is that the return match is at the Mestalla, so we have to find a way to stay alive until then."

Barcelona has outscored opponents 23-3 in its last six matches at home, so keeping it close will be crucial for Valencia before the game at Mestalla Stadium next week.

"We all know what Mestalla looks like when our fans are behind the team, and we will need their support more than ever," Fuego said. "This can be a decisive factor for us. All we need is a good result in Barcelona to stay with chances in the return match."

The teams drew 1-1 in Valencia in a Spanish league game earlier this season.

The other semifinal match will be played Thursday between Sevilla and Celta Vigo, the only team among the remaining four yet to win the competition.

Here are some other things to watch:

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VALENCIAS' STRUGGLES

Valencia is still in the Copa del Rey but the team's performance in the Spanish league has been dismal. It hasn't won a league match since a 5-1 rout of Celta Vigo in November.

Neville has been in charge for the last eight league games, drawing five and losing three. The latest setback was a 1-0 home loss to Sporting Gijon on Sunday, a result that prompted jeers by the fans at Mestalla.

"We have been doing well in the Copa," Fuego said. "That's important. We are very hopeful of making it to the final."

Valencia is playing in the Copa del Rey semifinals for the first time since winning the 2008 title.

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BARCELONA'S FORM

With Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, Barcelona has been thriving in all competitions this season. It has won eight games in a row and hasn't lost in 26 matches, dating back to a 2-1 loss to Sevilla in October.

The Catalan club has a three-point lead and a game in hand in the Spanish league. It is coming off a 2-1 win over second-place Atletico Madrid over the weekend.

Barcelona is playing in the Copa del Rey semifinals for the sixth straight time. It won the competition last season.

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CHERYSHEV RETURNS

Recently signed Russian striker Denis Cheryshev will be allowed to play for Valencia in the Copa del Rey semifinals.

The 25-year-old midfielder, signed on loan from Real Madrid on Monday, was in the middle of a controversy that led to Madrid's elimination from competition earlier this season.

He played in a match despite being ineligible because of accumulation of yellow cards in the previous season, when he still played for Villarreal. Madrid didn't notice and was disqualified.

"Barcelona is a great team, but Valencia also has its weapons," the recently arrived Cheryshev said.

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MEETING AGAIN

Celta Vigo and Sevilla will be seeing a lot of each other in the next few days.

Thursday's game in Seville will be the first of three encounters between the teams in a week. In addition to the Copa del Rey semifinals, they also meet in a league game on Sunday in Vigo.

Celta, which upset Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals, defeated Sevilla 2-1 in the league's fourth round.

Celta is in the Copa semifinals for the first time in 15 years. It lost the 2001 tournament in a final against Real Zaragoza after eliminating Barcelona in the semifinals.

Sevilla is the only team to have won all of its six Copa del Rey matches this season. It last won the competition in 2010.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni


Updated : 2021-01-24 01:55 GMT+08:00