Copa del Rey
The Barcelona Derby doesn’t exactly set pulses racing outside of Catalonia as FC Barcelona’s dominance over RCD Espanyol has been pretty thorough dating back to 1928. In 206 league matches, Barcelona have won 120 and drawn 42, leaving Espanyol with only 44 victories.
But Wednesday’s Barcelona Derby was played in the Copa del Rey — where the magic happens. The first leg of their quarterfinal matchup at RCDE Stadium saw Barca field a strong starting XI, including Lionel Messi (the all-time leading scorer in the Barcelona Derby with 20 goals), Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique.
You might’ve forgotten about Ousmane Dembele following his 20-game layoff due to a thigh muscle rupture, and that’s OK. Really, missing that many games accounts for roughly 20 percent of the kid's career so far.
Valencia eased into the Copa del Rey quarterfinals with a 4-0 victory over Las Palmas at the Mestalla on Tuesday, the Cup match playing out entirely like La Liga’s third-place side going up against the club in 20th. Valencia’s Luciano Vietto, who’s on loan at Los Che from Atletico Madrid, scored an amazing hat-trick of ever-increasing quality to lead the way.
The 24-year-old Argentinian gave Valencia a 1-0 advantage (2-1 on aggregate) in the 30th minute with a side-footed finish on the rebound after Simone Zaza’s header was miraculously saved by Raul Lizoain.
Real Madrid traveled to face second-tier Numancia in the first leg of their Copa del Rey Round of 16 matchup on Thursday. They were fortunate to come out with a 3-0 victory, scoring two penalties and riding their luck against a Numancia side that was inches away from greatness.
Real Madrid rested a number of stars for the cup match but still fielded a team with Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio, Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vazquez. Numancia, which is currently in fifth place in the Segunda Division in Spain, fielded none of its $100 million stars, probably because it has none.
Ousmane Dembele made his long-awaited return from injury in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg match versus Celta Vigo, but the headlines were written by the man he replaced in the 72nd minute, 22-year-old winger Jose Arnaiz.
Gareth Bale made his return from another injury layoff with an exquisite assist for Real Madrid, but goalkeeper Keylor Navas’ ricocheted blunder may have overshadowed Bale’s attempted heroics. Real Madrid drew 2-2 against Fuenlabrada in the second leg of their Copa del Rey Round of 32 match on Tuesday, advancing 4-2 on aggregate as the club’s (relative) struggles continued this season.