Barcelona eye domestic cup win to help heal Champions League wounds

BARCELONA,  (Reuters) – Barcelona will target a record-extending 30th King’s Cup triumph when they play Sevilla in tomorrow’s final which would also virtually assure them of a second domestic double in three seasons, reinforcing their dominance in Spain.

A victory for Barca in the first final at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid would also go some way towards healing the wounds from their — by their standards — catastrophic failure in the Champions League.

The team’s rampant run towards a 25th Liga title while staying unbeaten has been overshadowed by their devastating 3-0 defeat to AS Roma, which saw them exit Europe’s top competition on away goals after blowing a 4-1 lead from the first leg.

It has also harmed coach Ernesto Valverde’s reputation in an otherwise impeccable first season in charge.

Valverde was even criticised in some sections of the Catalan press in the aftermath of their European exit for taking the King’s Cup too seriously, with some blaming his team’s embarrassment in Rome on his reluctance to rotate his squad.

Barca’s third successive European failure will be all the harder to swallow should Real Madrid go on to win the Champions League for a third season in a row, although the Catalans’ domestic achievements are impressive in their own right.

If Barca beat Sevilla, they will become the first team since the Spanish Civil War started to win the cup four years in a row, and thereby almost certainly seal the club’s eighth domestic double.

Standing in their way are a hugely unpredictable Sevilla side who have endured a series of humiliating defeats in the league under coach Vincenzo Montella but who tend to come into their own on the biggest of occasions.

Sevilla knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League, dumped Atletico Madrid out of the King’s Cup and came within a minute of beating Barca in the league before the Catalans fought back from two goals down after 87 minutes to draw 2-2.

“We don’t have any fear. We’ll try and use our weapons as best we can and ensure that they don’t feel comfortable at all in any stage of the game,” Sevilla midfielder Pablo Sarabia told reporters ahead of the final.

“We have to be as aggressive as we can. It’s a beautiful chance for us to win a trophy. We have to remind ourselves of the good things we’ve done this season.

“We have not been consistent in the league but in the Champions League we made history and in the cup we have a chance to lift a trophy.”

There is an outside chance Barcelona could be crowned Liga champions the day after the final, if second-placed Atletico Madrid lose to Real Sociedad on Thursday and are beaten at home by Real Betis on Sunday.

Real Madrid, currently third, were due to play against Sevilla this weekend but the game has been postponed because of the King’s Cup final, while fourth-placed Valencia visit Celta Vigo tomorrow.

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