Copa del Rey schedule and preview: The semifinal first legs are here
Soccer – Spanish La Liga
The semifinals of the 2015 Copa del Rey being on Wednesday, and thanks to a lopsided bracket, there’s only one of Spain’s “big three” clubs remaining. Of course, that makes Barcelona the odds-on favorite to claim their 27th league cup title. They’ve already won more than any other Spanish side, so any victory would pad their record.
The path won’t be easy, but it’s certainly one that should be manageable for the Blaugrana. First up is their semifinal battle with Villarreal, a team that played them extremely close in their two La Liga matches. While Barcelona won both games — 1-0 in August, 3-2 in February — neither was a blowout, and a break one way or the other could have made the difference in a win or loss.
Barca have been playing their best football of the season over the past month, and will likely be taking the Copa del Rey seriously, even if they play a slightly weakened side due to schedule congestion.
Barca defeated Huesca, Elche and Atlético Madrid to reach this round, while Villarreal got past Oviedo, Real Sociedad and Getafe.
In the other semifinal, Espanyol faces Athletic Club in a matchup of two sides who are looking to boost average league seasons with a possible piece of silverware. After going on a four-match winning streak in January in all competitions, Espanyol have cooled off, losing three straight matches, each by just a single goal.
Athletic have been up and down all season, but their recent form had been better until a 5-2 thumping at the hands of Barcelona over the weekend. After a tremendous 2013-14 campaign that saw Athletic qualify for the Champions League, this season has been struggle, with Ernesto Valverde’s side currently sitting 13th in the table.
Here’s the schedule for the semifinal round.
Barcelona vs. Villarreal
First leg: Feb. 11, 2 p.m. ET – Camp Nou, Barcelona
Second leg: March 4, 2 p.m. ET – El Madrigal, Villareal
Espanyol vs. Athletic Club
First leg: February 11, 4 p.m. ET – Estadi Cornellà-El Prat, Barcelona
Second leg: March 4, 4 p.m. ET – San Mamés Stadium, Bilbao