Barcelona v Valencia: 3 things that could shape the outcome of Copa del Rey semi-final

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The first Copa del Rey semi final of the week is an absolute cracker.

Barcelona v Valencia is one of the premier fixtures in the Spanish football calendar and the fact that a place in the final is at stake makes this one all the more intoxicating.

Pay no attention to Los Che's league form. Gary Neville is a motivator supreme and we can be assured that he will have his troops up and ready for the fight here.


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Camp Nou is the venue for the first leg and Valencia need to keep things tight in order to keep the tie alive going into the second leg next Wednesday at Mestalla. Here are three things we expect to shape the outcome of the game.

Denis Cheryshev

The Russian was a late transfer window signing on loan from Real Madrid.

Despite him being banned from the competition for one match - coincidentally for a third yellow card in the competition against Barcelona at this same stage last season - and getting Real disqualified as a result, the powers that be have decreed that he is available for selection.

Barca might well be up in arms but that's because they understand what a threat Cheryshev can be.

He causes the Catalans all sorts of problems every time he plays and whichever side of the pitch he is on.

His lightning-quick speed from a standing start makes him a great match for either Dani Alves or Jordi Alba, neither of whom are slouches themselves.

His willingness to get involved, evidenced by those three yellows last term, will unsettle Barca's back line. Gerard Pique and co. will need to stay alert at all times.

Fortress Camp Nou

Just over two years ago, Valencia staged a magnificent performance at this venue to come away with all three points in a 3-2 victory.

The game was played on a Saturday afternoon at 4pm local, a time slot that Barca struggled with throughout that season.

Aside from that game, it's been eight years since Los Che have managed a victory at the home of their rivals.

Whilst records mean little in the grand scheme of things, Luis Enrique will know that if he avoids defeat here, at Levante on Saturday and then at Mestalla next week, he will have set an all-time unbeaten record of 29 matches.

Given that we often talk about making history, the players themselves are unlikely to want to let such an opportunity pass them by when so close to it.

Goals needed

Valencia haven't scored more than one goal in their last four games and even though they've not had a problem finding the net in this competition, their woes in front of goal might continue unless they can find an early breakthrough.

Alvaro Negredo is doing a lot of jabbing up front without being able to land that knockout blow and Gary Neville will be hard pressed to justify his continued inclusion if he doesn't come up with the goods here.

The omission through injury of Paco Alcacer has hit them hard, the little striker was scoring and assisting for fun before his season was cruelly cut short.

Time his team mates stepped up to the plate.

Can Gary Neville's side progress to the final? Have YOUR say in the comment box below!

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Luis Suarez
Lionel Messi
Gary Neville

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