Valencia and Athletic Bilbao will lock horns in the second leg of their Copa del Rey final on Wednesday evening, with a spot in the final of the prestigious competition on offer for both sides.
The last-four tie is delicately poised following a 1-1 draw in the first leg at San Mames on February 10, with Hugo Duro scoring in the second half for Los Che after Raul Garcia had sent the home side ahead.
Valencia will enter Wednesday’s semi-final second leg off the back of a 1-0 victory over Mallorca in La Liga on Saturday, which proved to be their first success in Spain’s top flight since December 20, and the result moved them into ninth position in the table.
Jose Bordalas’s side will now switch their attention to the Copa del Rey, and the team are in a relatively strong position to reach the final, having claimed a 1-1 draw at San Mames in the first leg; Raul Garcia sent Athletic into a 37th-minute lead before Duro levelled the scores in the 65th minute.
Valencia have already beaten Utrillas, Arenteiro, FC Cartagena, Atletico Baleares and Cadiz to reach this stage of the Copa del Rey, and they are bidding to win this competition for the ninth time in their history, last lifting the trophy in 2019 by overcoming Barcelona 2-1 in the final.
Incredibly, each of the last four matches between Los Che and Athletic in all competitions have finished level, including a 1-1 draw in the league at Mestalla back in September.
Valencia have not overcome Athletic in any competition since a 1-0 success at San Mames in September 2019, and recent history suggests that this match will be another close affair, with the two teams bidding to reach the final, where either Real Betis or Rayo Vallecano will be their opponents.
Athletic are the second-most successful side in the history of the Copa del Rey, having lifted the trophy on 23 occasions, while they have also reached the final on a further 16 occasions, but their last success was back in 1984, beating Barcelona at Bernabeu to secure the silverware.
The Lions suffered a 4-0 defeat to Barcelona in last season’s Copa del Rey final, but they have beaten the Catalan outfit and Real Madrid in the last two rounds of this competition, so their spot in the semi-finals of the competition is certainly deserved considering the strength of their opposition.
Athletic will enter Wednesday’s match off the back of a disappointing result in the league, though, having lost 4-0 at Barcelona, with the result leaving them in eighth spot in the table.
Marcelino’s side are very much in the race for a top-six finish in La Liga this term, sitting just five points off the Europa League positions, but their full focus for the moment will be on advancing to another Copa del Rey final.
Valencia Copa del Rey form:
Valencia form (all competitions):
Athletic Bilbao Copa del Rey form:
Athletic Bilbao form (all competitions):
We say: Valencia 0-1 Athletic Bilbao
This has all of the makings of a fascinating contest, and it is likely to be a very tight second leg at Mestalla. It would not be a surprise to see either side advance to the final, but we just have a feeling that Athletic will shade the contest in 90 minutes to secure a 2-1 aggregate success.