Cup disappointment in the Catalan capital but Girona progress
Barça beaten in men’s and women’s Super Cups, while Espanyol halted at home to Osasuna
Cup competitions brought disappointment to the Catalan capital over the weekend, as FC Barcelona were beaten in the finals of the men’s and semi-final of the women’s Super Cups, while crosstown rivals Espanyol were pipped at home to Osasuna in the Copa del Rey.
Barça’s men’s team will enter the Copa del Rey at the next knockout stage, where they will be joined by Girona after the second division side beat Primera División’s Cádiz in the round of 32.
Ronald Koeman’s side will be bitterly disappointed at how the last week has played out for them, being taken to penalties after playing 120 minutes against Real Sociedad, before once again going through extra-time against Athletic Bilbao only to come away empty-handed.
Given that this campaign started much later than normal due to the pandemic disrupting last season, and yet must finish at the same time as normal as the European Championships are set to be played in summer 2021, this is resulting in a much more compact schedule for clubs, with games coming much more frequently than ever before, and fatigue and muscle injuries a bigger worry than ever. To then be held to extra time in two games outside of the league, cup, and European calendar, both going to extra-time, could have a damaging effect on the fitness of the players, something that will be hugely unwelcome for the Dutch manager.
Meanwhile, Marcelino García Toral is a coach that’s making himself a particularly prickly thorn in the side of the blaugrana, beating the Catalans in the last two finals they have now disputed - Sunday’s Super Cup with Athletic Bilbao, and the 2018/19 Copa del Rey final with Valencia.
The frustration of the Catalans was exemplified by captain Leo Messi, when in the dying moments of the game, the Argentine lashed out at Athletic’s Asier Villalibre with his arm and was shown the first red card of his Barça career.
Next up for Barça is one of the rarest Catalan derbies one could imagine - a cup clash with Segunda B side UE Cornellà on Thursday. The semi-pro side play their games in a ground just 15 metres away from Espanyol’s stadium and arrived at this stage of the tournament after knocking out La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid in the previous round.
The women’s team were also taken to penalties at the Super Cup semi-final stage, but whereas Marc Andre Ter Stegen could perform the heroics for the men’s side against Real Sociedad, the women’s team didn’t have the same luck.
Indeed, Barça only forced the extra 30 minutes and eventual tie-breaking spot-kicks with an 89th-minute equaliser from Alexia Putellas to make it 1-1. In the end, Lluís Cortés’s troops didn’t have enough and were knocked out by the eventual winners of the competition.
Copa del Rey
Espanyol, leaders of the second division and heading for an immediate return to the top flight of Spanish football, were knocked out of the Copa del Rey to Osasuna.
The Catalans have been in otherwise flying form this season, three points clear at the summit of the table and only having dropped points in seven games all season.
Manager Vicente Moreno lamented that his side conceded a goal from the first mistake that was made, and were then punished by a counter-attack for attacking and trying to win the game.
Elsewhere, to the north, Girona are celebrating reaching the round of 16 for only the third time in the club’s history. Two smart finishes by 21-year-old Valery Fernández knocked Primera División side Cádiz out of the cup.
Valery has suffered a terrible run of injuries over the past couple of seasons, stifling his opportunities for minutes with the Girona first team. Nevertheless, the winger is becoming something of a lucky charm in the cup, with four goals to his name with the club so far and three of those coming in the Copa del Rey.
Girona host Espanyol in the next league meeting this coming weekend in what will no doubt be a compelling Catalan derby.
In the Liga ACB, Barça’s game was called off as a result of a Covid-19 outbreak in the opposition squad, Estudiantes. They missed out on a chance to draw level with Real Madrid at the top of the table and remain one win behind, although the Catalans have played one game more.
Joventut de Badalona lost their fourth consecutive league game, putting their playoff prospects in doubt. The 90-94 loss to San Sebastian Gipuzkoa, bottom of the standings, will have dealt a blow to their spiralling confidence levels at a crucial period of the season.
Meanwhile, Manresa won against Unicaja, overtaking them in the league rankings and sneaking into 8th, the final playoff position.
In the women’s league, Girona overcame Clarinos 63-54 and remain third in the table with a record of 18-2.