IT’S semi-final time in the Copa del Rey this Wednesday night. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) is on the hunt for some European value.
Barcelona v Villarreal | Wednesday 21.00 | Sky Sports 5
The first of the Wednesday night’s Copa del Rey semi-finals should be a blockbuster. Barcelona met Villarreal at the Camp Nou in La Liga action just 10 days ago, in what was one of the best games of the season, ending in a 3-2 win for the Catalans. And there’s no reason why we shouldn’t expect a similar high-scoring affair for their first leg clash.
Barca’s form since their defeat to Real Sociedad on the first weekend of January has been exceptional. Sunday’s 5-2 success at Athletic Bilbao was their ninth victory on the spin with Luis Enrique’s men rattling in 34 goals in that spell. They’ve been a joy to watch with Lionel Messi rediscovering his magic alongside Neymar and Luis Suarez.
On the counter, Barcelona have been electric. But they’re also giving their opponents more than a sniff. It’s true, in midfield they’ve not controlled games as they’d like and with the full-backs playing in such an aggressive and offensive manner, there are gaps to exploit. Villarreal did that brilliantly in the league outing and they’ll look to follow the same blueprint on Wednesday night.
Marcelinho’s men will line-up with two banks of four, sit back and then spring forward at devastating pace, relying on Luciano Vietto, Giovani Dos Santos and Denis Tcherychev to wreak havoc. The Yellow Submarine are a young, talented team who know their roles and responsibilities inside out. And I fully expect them to score.
Villarreal have netted in their last 27 successive outings and we can back Both Teams To Score at 19/20 with Betfair. It’s an astounding record, far better than Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, PSG or Chelsea and deserves maximum respect. They will get their chances and I’m confident they have the quality to be clinical enough in front of goal.
And just for the record, Barca have only failed to score once at the Camp Nou since August 2013. A prize to whoever can name the side to stop them scoring in that time (comments box below)…
Athletic Bilbao v Espanyol | Wednesday 21.00 | Sky Sports 5
A place in the Copa del Rey final is the prize for Athletic or Espanyol as they begin their two-legged tussle in the Basque Country on Wednesday evening. Athletic, fresh from their 5-2 smashing by Barcelona, know this is the best (and probably only) chance to save their season but can they be backed?
No, is the short answer. The Lions were poor in possession on Sunday night and were ripped apart by a rampant Barca – OK, no shame there.
But they are lacking variety in their game and there’s a huge reliance on ageing centre-forward Aritz Aduritz to make the difference. Bilbao are yet to score a league goal when AA’s not been on the pitch and have won only three of their 11 La Liga matches at the new San Mames. So I’m not investing my faith in Ernesto Valverde’s team here.
Espanyol have proved themselves again as an excellent cup side and the Parakeets are certainly punching above their weight this season. A 2-1 reverse at home to Valencia at the weekend made it four league losses in six and their away record of seven defeats in 10 is also of concern for travelling fans.
But five of those 10 reverses came away to top-five clubs and there’s most definitely a threat from the Barcelona-based club when they come forward. Felipe Caicedo, Sergio Garcia and Christian Stuani are more than capable of causing Athletic problems and I believe that opens us up for another play on the Both Teams To Score market (13/10 Coral).
Espanyol have seen 10 of their last 11 La Liga matches prove profitable in the Over 2.5 Goals market whilst the Parakeets have struck in 17 of their last 19 games, including seven of their previous nine away.
It’s a similar tale for Athletic with the Lions netting in 10 of their last 13 on home soil, whilst the hosts are also without suspended centre-half Aymeric Laporte
Barcelona v Villarreal – Both Teams To Score (19/20 Betfair)
Athletic Bilbao v Espanyol – Both Teams To Score (13/10 Coral)
What’s your best Copa del Rey bet for Wednesday night? Can Villarreal topple Barcelona at the Camp Nou?
We’d love to hear what you’re backing this midweek so let us know in the comments box below.