Barcelona vs Valencia, Battle of the giants in Copa del Rey

FC Barcelona's Luis Suarez, second left, reacts after scoring against Valencia during a semifinal, first leg, Copa del Rey soccer match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

It could be a coincidence that two teams meet four times in a decade on their routes to the Copa del Rey final but it is even more strange that every time Barcelona and Valencia have met, it has come in the semi-final.

On all three previous occasions, the winner of this tie has gone on to win the final.

The most memorable of all was the humiliation Valencia faced under Gary Neville as they were thrashed 7-0 at the Camp Nou, whilst it was much closer with a 3-1 aggregate victory for Barcelona in 2012.

On Thursday night two teams with very different styles and in very different form will meet.

Since the Supercopa de Espana, Barcelona has lost just once, against Espanyol in the last round of the Copa del Rey.

Valencia, on the other hand, has seen the tide turn on them, experiencing unexpected defeats in recent weeks, and even in the cup against Alaves.

With enough points to be confident of a place in the Champions League next year, Valencia has begun to rest players in the league to ensure progress in the cup.

They did so again in the build-up to this semi-final, although it has allowed Villarreal and Real Madrid to cut their respective gaps by six points.

After taking such a gamble, Marcelino’s side must ensure that his side progress to the final.

Valencia head into the tie without four regular starters as Carlos Soler comes back into the side on the back of an injury whilst Gabriel Paulista returns from suspension.

“There is a long time left to finish the league and not a lot left to finish the cup, we want to get to the final,” Marcelino said.

Semedo misses out

“In a semi-final, you have to play for it,” Ernesto Valverde said in the build-up as he insisted that Barcelona will take the tie to Los Che.

The Catalans have got one hand on the league trophy already and the Champions League is just around the corner, but Valverde won’t be distracted.

If they are to compete and push for the treble, then victory in the return at Estadio Mestalla could be crucial to securing a fourth consecutive Copa del Rey final and adding another trophy.

For now, in the first leg, Barcelona will be calling upon their strongest team and Nelson Semedo will be left out as a result of a tactical decision after Valverde felt that he did not take his chance against Alaves last weekend.