Ahead of Barcelona’s second big clash in the Nou Camp, we take a look back at the Catalans’ 5-0 mauling of their Andalusian counterparts in the final of the 2018 Copa Del Rey.
Having suffered a humiliating exit at the hands of AS Roma in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League, the 2018 Copa De Rey final presented itself as an opportunity for the Catalans to recover some lost honour. The Catalans were playing their fifth successive cup final and were on course for a 4th consecutive triumph, a feat that last was achieved by Athletic Club in 1963.
Their opponents in Sevilla wanted to salvage what had been for them a sub-par season. They hadn’t won a single match since the 13th of March and this, a potential cup triumph over the best team in the country, would have been more than enough to make amends for their season.
This game was club legend Andres Iniesta’s last final appearance for the club as the veteran midfielder announced his departure from the club in late January. This was his 670th appearance as well as his15th final for the club. In this period he had won 30 trophies already and was en route to yet another crowning in the claret and blue of Barcelona.
Road to the final
Round of 32 – 7-0 Cartagena
Round of 16 – 4-1 Cadiz
Quarterfinal – 5-2 Aletico de Madrid
Semifinal – 3-1 Leganes
Round of 32 – 8-0 Murcia
Round of 16 – 6-1 Celta Vigo
Quarterfinal – 2-1 Espanyol
Semifinal – 3-0 Valencia
J. Navas – G. Mercado – Lenglet – Escudero
N’Zonzi – E. Banea
P. Sarabia – F. Vasquez – J. Correa
Semedo – Pique – Umtiti – Jordi Alba
Coutinho – Busquets – Rakitic – Iniesta
Messi – Suarez
The defending champions signalled their intent from early on. Sergio Busquets played a through ball into Lionel Messi’s path but given the weight on the ball, David Soria made an easy clearance. The Argentine then drew a foul and the subsequent freekick, though beautifully taken, was palmed away by the keeper.
Soria would eventually be beaten and to the shock of the supporters in the Wanda Metropolitano, his opposite number had a massive involvement in its build up. From a goal kick,Jasper Cillessen fiercely struck the ball along the length of the pitch and found Philippe Coutinho in space. With the keeper out of place, the Brazilian then played in a cross to his South American counterpart Luis Suarez for an easy tap in.
Sevilla attempted to respond to this through an attack of their own but Jesus Navas’ low cross went right across the face of goal. The man of the hour Andres Iniesta took a shot at goal but his left footed thunderbolt struck the crossbar and was subsequently cleared away.
Sixteen minutes after their opener, Barcelona found their second of the evening and punished Sevilla for their missed chances. Iniesta played a through ball into Jordi Alba’s path. From the byline, the Spaniard then made a cutback into Messi’s path and Messi doubled the lead, scoring his 30th goal against his favourite victim. He then turned provider five just minutes before the end of the half. Having spotted Suarez’ forward run, he lacerated the opposition defence and the Uruguayan capped off the move with a cool finish underneath the keeper to seal his brace and take the Blaugranas’ tally to 3-0.
Halftime: Barcelona 3-0 Sevilla
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Rather than play in the conservative manner they had become infamous for in the second halves of some matches, Barcelona maintained their high tempo and went full throttle as soon as the referee blew his whistle.
Iniesta and Messi combined once again to widen the already enormous gap between themselves and their rivals. Like a surgeon with his scalpel, Messi cut open the Andalusians’ defence with a through ball towards the Spaniard. He then went past Soria and on a tight angle, struck the ball home to make it 4-0 on the night.
Sevilla at this point were counting the minutes to the end of the match but just when they thought that things couldn’t get any worse, they did. Suarez and Coutinho combined once more but the Uruguayan’s side footed chip struck Clement Lenglet’s arm. Coutinho did score but it was ruled out and a penalty was awarded. Rather than complete his brace, Lionel Messi passed up the opportunity and gave his penalty to the Brazilian who scored his first and Barca’s fifth of the night to complete the rout.
In the 88th minute of the match, Iniesta was subbed off and gave his armband to Messi, entrusting him with the stewardship of the team. For all he had done for Spanish football as a whole, he received a standing ovation from both sets of fans. He was awarded as man of the match, a fitting end to the final chapter of his Barcelona career.
A glorious display of football, five great goals, and a beautiful trophy to cap it off, this was one night that no supporters from either camp will forget any time soon.
The Rewind: Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao 3-1, 2015 Copa del Rey Final
As Barça prepare to take on Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final, join us as we look back at the last time these two teams played each other in the final.
Barcelona will be looking for their sixth Copa del Rey title in ten years as they face off against Athletic Bilbao later tonight. It is the third time the two sides have played each other in the final this decade, with Barça winning both previous encounters. Nevertheless, Athletic Bilbao have had the upper hand against Barcelona recently in cup competitions. Earlier this year, they defeated them in the Supercup final, and in 2020, they knocked them out of the Copa del Rey.
Barcelona’s 2014/15 was one of their greatest seasons of all time. With signings like Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic to replenish the squad alongside new manager Luis Enrique, the Blaugrana went on to win the treble. By the time they faced Athletic Bilbao in the 2015 Copa del Rey final, they had already won La Liga and were set to play in the Champions League final the next week against Juventus.
Barça’s run in the Copa del Rey was nothing short of sensational, scoring 27 goals in eight matches as they went to their fourth final in five years. This included an 8-1 win against Huesca and a thrilling 3-2 victory against Atlético Madrid.
Athletic Bilbao were in their second final in four years. They played Barça in the 2012 final, losing 3-0 in Pep Guardiola’s farewell match. The Basque side were led by Ernesto Valverde, who would eventually take over Barcelona in 2017.
Luis Enrique lined up Barcelona with his favoured starting eleven:
Dani Alves · Pique · Mascherano · Alba
Rakitic · Busquets · Iniesta
Messi · Suarez · Neymar
Ernesto opted for his preferred 4-4-2 shape with the following:
Bustinza · Etxeita · Laporte · Balenziaga
Iraola · San José · Beñat · Mikel Rico
Aduriz · Inaki Williams
Barcelona started off by controlling possession and trying to break down Bilbao’s robust 4-4-2 shape, but their opponents were constant threats off counter-attacks. The Catalans would build up from the back with Gerard Piqué and Javier Mascherano, particularly looking for Lionel Messi or Dani Alves as outlets. They heavily focused on stretching Bilbao out and playing down the flanks.
Around 9 minutes in, ter Stegen was careless in the box and almost gave away possession, nearly gifting Bilbao a prime scoring opportunity. Nonetheless, in typical Barça fashion under Luis Enrique, they restored composure and, with a few quick passes, broke through Bilbao’s press. Jordi Alba progressed the ball forward and found a wide-open Iniesta. With space, the Spaniard passed to Messi, who sent a signature ball into the box to Neymar. The Brazilian had a brilliant first-time finish, but the goal was ruled offside.
Only a minute later, Suarez was one-on-one in the box but the shot parried off Bilbao’s keeper.
19 minutes in, the crowd of nearly 100,000 fans witnessed history. Dani Alves gave Messi a short pass near the halfway line. The Argentine got past his first defender, then encountered a cul-de-sac of three. With only three touches, he left them in the dust. Now near the outside of the box, he cut past another and fired the ball into the near post, scoring one of the best goals ever.
As the commentating duo of Kevin Keatings and Rob Palmer put it: “It’s one of the great Copa del Rey final goals! From the magical, mercurial Lionel Messi.”
1-0 to the Blaugrana.
It was a lead that was bound to come, but nobody could have expected such a goal.
In the 25th minute, Messi picked the ball off of a defender and set Suarez down the line; he had Neymar wide open in the box, but the pass was intercepted at the last minute. The Catalans were relentless, and Bilbao could not stop them. At this point in the game, they had over 70% of possession and more importantly, they were dangerous with it. Time after time, they had opportunities in the box: Neymar had a one-on-one and Suarez only nearly missed a cross from Alba.
With only ten minutes left in the half, there was chaos outside Bilbao’s box. Ivan Rakitic threaded a ball into the penalty area to Suarez; in a selfless move, the Uruguayan crossed it to Neymar, who doubled Barcelona’s lead. It was a well deserved second goal as Barca were simply running circles around their opponents.
Half Time: Barcelona 2-0 Athletic Bilbao
The second half was more of a balanced game, but neither side could control it. Bilbao kept the Catalans on the back foot for much of the half, preventing them from having typical long spells of possession. The Basque side made some threats but nothing came to fruition.
Ten minutes in, Andres Iniesta came off for Xavi Hernandez, who would play in his penultimate game for the club and his last in the Camp Nou.
As is the case with a squad that talented, Barcelona could create chances out of nothing. In the 72nd minute, Neymar and Dani Alves had a quick one-two that sent the right back down the wings. With his eagle-eyed passing, he sent a low cross into the box that found Messi. The Argentine hit it into the back of the net.
All of a sudden it was 3-0 and despite Bilbao’s improvement, they could not contain the Blaugrana.
Barça made their final changes a few minutes later: Jeremy Mathieu and Pedro Rodriquez for Jordi Alba and Luis Suarez.
In the 78th minute, Bilbao sent a ball into the box, and starlet Inaki Williams headed it into the back of the net. It was a deserving goal for the Basque outfit, but ultimately, it was too little too late.
The final 10 minutes or so were a back and forth affair, but Barça did more than enough to secure their lead.
The match was chippy and full of hard tackles all throughout, but that reached a climax when near the end of the game, Neymar attempted to rainbow flick past a defender. Bilbao did not react kindly to it as they pushed Neymar to the ground, interpreting it as unnecessary showboating. There was a resulting scuffle between both sides, but nothing too egregious.
In the last minute, Barça won a free kick, but Xavi hit the post.
As the full-time whistle blew, the Catalans won their record 27th Copa del Rey title and were one trophy away from winning the Treble.
Full Time: Barcelona 3-1 Athletic Bilbao
Athletic Bilbao fought valiantly throughout the game but Barça’s quality was unmatched that entire campaign. They put on a magnificent show in front of the Camp Nou, highlighted by Messi’s brilliant goal. One can only hope for a similar performance in the 2021 final.