Clash of Kings in the Cup

Clash of Kings in the Cup

San Mamés wants to roar again with his Athletic against an improved Barça


Athletic Club receives FC Barcelona this Wednesday in San Mamés (9:30 p.m.) in a spectacular duel in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey, with a duel between the two 'Kings of Cups' in a San Mamés that hopes to roar like never before to allow his team to continue in search of the trophy and, in the process, eliminate a Barça that was once their great executioner in the competition.

Match heads or tails, life or death, black or white… No matter how you say it, it is a decisive duel for both clubs. And historic, for facing the two clubs with the most Copas del Rey in their record. A total of 31 titles for Barça and 23 for Athletic Club. And only one will be able to seek, at the end of the 90 minutes, extra time or penalties if necessary, continue advancing towards another one.

And as a setting, San Mamés is the stadium that Xavi Hernández, Blaugrana coach, wanted to avoid. This was confirmed in the preview of the clash, in which he praised the rival coach, Ernesto Valverde who faces his former team, and some 'lions' who are in a very good moment.

In fact, last weekend's defeat at Mestalla (1-0) against Valencia CF led to the end of a streak of 14 games without losing, with 11 victories in between and a climb in LaLiga EA Sports to fifth place. square. With only 3 points less than FC Barcelona.

It was on October 10, 2023 when Athletic suffered its last defeat and, due to life reasons and to add more morbidity to this cup duel, it was at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys against FC Barcelona, ​​with a single goal from the youth squad forward Marc Guiu, as soon as he entered the field, in the 80th minute. Since then, Athletic did not lose again until they did so at Mestalla.

A new streak can begin and it would do so before its penultimate executioner; against a Barça that in the past almost always beat them in the Copa del Rey but, with the change of format from a single match to the semi-finals, has had bad fortune. The last 'culer' victory in the Cup against Athletic was in 2016, with Ernesto Valverde on the 'athleticzale' bench.

Since then, San Mamés and the Cup, together, bring back bad memories for Barça. The next visit was a 2-1, a defeat that meant nothing since the Camp Nou saw the comeback (3-1). But, with the arrival of single-match crosses until the semifinals, Athletic won in the 2020 quarterfinals and in the 2022 round of 16.

In the 2019-2020 campaign, Athletic passed the round with a goal from Iñaki Williams (1-0) and, in the 2021-2022 season, in the last precedent, the result was 3-2 for Athletic with a goal from Muniain in the extension, the same one that was forced by the then 'lion' and now Blaugrana Iñigo Martínez.

For titles in the Copa del Rey, for finals played between them – the last one being 4-1 for Barça in 2021 – and vibrant qualifying rounds, for the atmosphere of San Mamés and for being two of the three teams that have always played first. For all this and more, a great duel between Athletic and Barça is expected.

Of course, there will be significant casualties. At Athletic, Ernesto Valverde will not be able to count on Dani García or De Marcos, who are injured. Vesga and Ruiz de Galarreta are doubtful, while Nico Williams would be back in the team, recovered from the Mestalla blow. The big doubt is his brother Iñaki Williams, concentrated with Gana in the Africa Cup but who could return in time to play if his team is eliminated this Tuesday.

“Right now it is very far from here and I could make a lot of assumptions but we have not yet reached that river, when we get there we will think about what can happen. Ghana is right now in the Africa Cup, so we are not considering anything else” Valverde concluded before the media before the duel.

On the other hand, home of Betis.

In addition, youth winger Lamine Yamal appears for the first time in a squad for this season's Copa del Rey, who was unable to play against Barbastro or Unionistas due to a suspension he carried from his time with the youth team. The casualties will be those of Ter Stegen, Iñigo Martínez, Marcos Alonso, Gavi and Raphinha.



ATHLETIC CLUB: Unai Simón; Lekue, Vivian, Paredes, Yuri; Vesga, Ruiz de Galarreta; Berenguer, Sancet, Nico Williams; and Guruzeta.

FC BARCELONA: Iñaki Peña; Cancelo, Kound, Araujo, Bucket; De Jong, Gundogan, Pedri; Lamine Yamal, Lewandowski and Ferran Torres.

–REFEREE: Sánchez Martínez (C. Murciano).

–STADIUM: San Mamés.

–TIME: 9:30 p.m./1st.