Rout in Copa del Rey final preview vs. Alaves comes at a cost for Barcelona
A Spanish side had suffered only one defeat in 17 games and won a midweek tie in the Copa de Rey semifinal. But this was not one of the big boys in a league often accused of lacking competitive balance.
This was Alaves, a team that only four years ago was in the regionalized third division and close to extinction. But now the newly promoted side has reached a cup final and has already shown its ability to compete with early-season results at Atletico Madrid (1-1, Matchday 1) and Barcelona (2-1, Matchday 3). January had been a little slow for Mauricio Pellegrino’s side, with four straight draws (including three 0-0s), but it burst into life last week as Edgar Mendez’s later winner over Celta Vigo propelled Alaves into a Copa del Rey showdown vs. Barcelona, the first Copa final in its 96-year history. The only time it has come close to a title was the 2001 UEFA Cup final, which it lost 5-4 to Liverpool.
Its weekend opponent was Barcelona, the team it will face in the final. Pellegrino made huge changes to the side, and as expected, the visitor came out on top: the 6-0 win was Barcelona’s biggest in the league of the season and the fourth time it has hit for six this season. Alaves remains in mid-table safety, and despite the result, this should be considered one of the best weeks in the club’s history.
While the result put Barcelona on top of La Liga, briefly–until Real Madrid beat Osasuna 3-1, going one point clear with two games in hand–the match left manager Luis Enrique with a headache. Barcelona right back Aleix Vidal was stretchered off late after a late clash with Theo Hernandez, and his damaged ankle ligament will keep him out until the end of the season.
Luis Enrique has to find cover for Tuesday’s Valentine’s Day, Champions League clash at Paris Saint-Germain. He could choose between Sergi Roberto and Javier Mascherano at right back; PSG’s January signing Julien Draxler has been excellent in his brief spell in France, and he will look to capitalize on one of the rare weaknesses in this Barcelona side.