Forgot Password

 

Register

 

Create your Connect ID

This will allow you to login to all DStv websites & applications




or
Login using
x

Email Reset

 




Loading...
Loading Live Scoring...
*All times CAT (GMT+2)

Football | Spain

Tito Vilanova © Reuters Images

Barca vulnerable as Malaga looms



Showing its first signs of vulnerability, defending champion Barcelona will visit Malaga on Thursday needing to overturn a 2-2 draw to advance in the Copa del Rey and set up a likely semifinal against Real Madrid.

After strolling through the first half of the season, Barcelona has suddenly stumbled in consecutive games and faces its first must-win match of the campaign.

Madrid visits Valencia the day before, holding a 2-0 advantage from the opening leg. Madrid routed Valencia 5-0 in a league match on Sunday.

On the other side of the bracket, Atletico Madrid is at Real Betis on Thursday aiming to protect its 2-0 victory from the first leg. Sevilla hosts Real Zaragoza on Wednesday after they drew 0-0 in their first meeting.

Last week, Barcelona was held to a home draw by Malaga despite playing against 10 men, conceding a 90th-minute equalizer from Ignacio Camacho.

The team then lost 3-2 Saturday in league play at Real Sociedad after leading by two goals, and allowing its opponent to score in stoppage time.

Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said the slip-up in San Sebastian had put his team "on alert."

"We are going with the conviction that we will win on Malaga's field and that we will be in the next round," Iniesta said. "Of course it is possible (we won't). We are taking on a team with great players playing at home with two away goals in hand, but we have never contemplated being eliminated."

Barcelona's unexpected dip in form comes in the same week when goalkeeper Victor Valdes, a mainstay for the Catalan team for the past decade, said he would not renew his contract beyond the end of next season.

Adding to the instability at the club, coach Tito Vilanova won't be on the touchline for the critical game at La Rosaleda Stadium after reportedly traveling to New York to seek further treatment following surgery to remove a tumor from his throat. Assistant Jordi Roura will take his place for the second time since Vilanova had surgery in December.

Iniesta said he respected Valdes' decision to end his career elsewhere, adding that he didn't believe it would affect the goalkeeper's or the team's performance.

"If things don't work out it will be because we didn't do what we were supposed to, not because of Victor," Iniesta said.

Malaga is winless in January with three draws and two losses between the league and cup competitions.

"Eliminating Barcelona would have a worldwide impact," Malaga defender Martin Demichelis said. "Last weekend proved that Barcelona is not invincible and that you can even come back from 2-0 down. I hope they have some doubts about this game, although I don't think they will since they are a group accustomed to winning every two or three days."

Madrid finally recovered its attacking flair from last season over the weekend when it beat Valencia thanks to two goals each from Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria, and Mesut Oezil's playmaking.

Now it returns to Mestalla Stadium with the chance to make it three wins in nine days over the hapless Valencia.

Valencia will be missing top scorer Roberto Soldado, out nursing a leg injury picked up in his team's rout.

"The game on Wednesday will be an entirely different match and (we expected) it to be difficult," Di Maria said. "It's a knockout round in the cup, and they are going to come out looking to win from the start."

If Barcelona and Madrid reach the semifinals, it will be the third straight year the rivals clash in the Copa del Rey. Madrid beat Barcelona in the 2011 final, while Barcelona ousted Madrid in the quarterfinals last season on its way to winning its record 26th cup title.

Shop

Gerrard: My Autobiography
Steven Gerrard is a hero to millions, not only as the inspirational captain of Liverpool FC, but as a key member of the England team.
R161.00
Rafa: My Story
Revelatory memoir from the greatest sportsman in the world today.
R182.00
Mitre Monde Soccer Ball - White
Voted as one of the UK's favourite match balls
R219.00


Comments

More expert analysis and opinion from Sport24
The opinions expressed by Sport24 experts and bloggers are theirs alone, and do not necessarily represent those of SuperSport

Sports Talk



Neil Tovey
Baxter’s men on the ball
Kaizer Chiefs’ 15-match winning streak may have ended but they remain the team to beat in the PSL.

Chima Emmanuel Aguma
Mata can't replace Rooney
Manchester United started the first of three crucial Premier League games against West Brom (away),...

Calvin Emeka Onwuka
Rodgers must focus on the league
Many footballers arriving in the Barclays Premier League have been warned of second-season syndrome.

Sunday Oliseh
Dortmund's winning formula is killing it
I sat in Signal Iduna Park to watch Dortmund over-run Arsenal and wondered, how long will it take...

John Dykes
A Gooner or a gonner?
An International Break can do funny things to the mind. Mine, for instance was heavily engaged this...

Dr Errol Sweeney
Why can’t soccer be like rugby?
Sport is supposed to be sport; something we all do for the love of it, for recreational purposes,...