Barcelona set club record unbeaten run as Ivan Rakitic excels vs. Valencia
Barcelona qualified for their sixth Copa del Rey final in eight years after drawing with Valencia 1-1 at the Mestalla, making an 8-1 aggregate win. Wilfrid Kaptoum scored the only goal for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 64 percent of possession, created 13 goalscoring chances and attempted 11 shots, three of them on target.
Given the overwhelming 7-0 advantage that the Catalans earned in the first leg at the Camp Nou, it was hardly surprising to see Luis Enrique using the game as a golden chance to experiment with his traditional formation and give much-needed playing time to both non-regulars and upcoming Barca B talents.
The Blaugranas remained largely in control against a team already fully aware they were 90 minutes away from elimination before the game even started. With both teams lacking the necessary tension and urge to chase victory desperately, the game ended up becoming little more than a glorified training session. The final 1-1 draw was a fair reflection of a game that neither team wanted to lose or devote enough energy to win.
The result at the Estadio Mestalla stretched the Catalans unbeaten run to an impressive 29 matches, a new club record which surpassed that set by Pep Guardiola's historic team from 2010-11. Luis Enrique should be proud to have led his side to yet another final while granting much-needed rest to the vast majority of his key players.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 -- Hugely unlucky to have conceded the first goal having saved Alvaro Negredo's first attempt when one-on-one. Other than that, a fairly comfortable game for the German, who was only forced into making four saves in the whole game including a truly spectacular stop to deny Danilo Barbosa's superb free-kick.
DF Aleix Vidal, 6 -- Contributed well defensively and made himself constantly available when pushing forward. Given Luis Enrique's choice to field a five-man back-line, the Catalan took advantage of the added freedom to often venture into attacking positions.
DF Marc Bartra, 4 -- Definitely as a result of his manager's lack of trust, the 25-year-old Catalan centre-back looked insecure from the initial whistle and never really recovered. His poor positioning resulted in Valencia's opener and he was eventually moved to right-back after the inclusion of Douglas Pereira. Sad to see such a talented player wasting vital years of his development waiting for a real chance that, at this rate, will never come.
DF Thomas Vermaelen, 6 -- Led Barca's experimental back-line with his decisive tackling, continued awareness and imposing aerial ability. Great to see the Belgian international stepping up when needed.
DF Jeremy Mathieu, 3 -- Delivered yet another disappointing defensive performance in the heart of defence. His passing out from the back wasn't brilliant either, which is just not good enough for an experienced player who should be challenging Javier Mascherano for a regular spot alongside Gerard Pique.
DF Adriano Correia, 4 -- The Brazilian left-back, who captained the team given the many changes to Enrique's starting XI, didn't make a good enough impression at either end of the pitch before being replaced by perennial substitute, Douglas. Judging by his lack of ability to make a difference, it would be safe to say his best years are now behind him.
MF Sergi Samper, 5 -- The La Masia graduate was given the impossible task of replacing the omnipresent Sergio Busquets at the heart of midfield. While he didn't totally fail, it soon became obvious that the Barca B youngster must work on his presence, tackling and positioning in order to earn a regular first team spot.
MF Sergi Roberto, 6 -- Given his impeccable moment in terms of confidence and form, the Catalan played an instrumental role that helped dictate the pace of the game. Another superb display from the Catalans' most improved player this season.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 7 -- Far more advanced than usual, which meant he was not as involved in his team's build-up play as Cules have become accustomed to. Regardless, his dynamism and hunger for victory easily made him the most influential player in the final third.
FW Munir El Haddadi, 5 -- Despite having excelled in previous Copa rounds, this was definitely not the youngster's best showing. Created several opportunities for others, but was frustratingly ineffective in front of goal. Wasted a perfect chance to equalise before the break by sending a clear header disappointingly wide.
FW Sandro Rodriguez, 4 -- His first touch let him down repeatedly, which made waste of the positional advantage he regularly created with his constant runs. Judging by his poor display, "El Canario" is now clearly a couple of steps behind Munir for the fourth forward spot behind Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
DF Douglas Pereira, n/a -- Replaced Adriano after 75 minutes, making his first appearance in four months. The Brazilian linked well with those around him from the left-back position in the few minutes he was granted.
MF Juan Camara, n/a -- Substituted Rakitic with 15 minutes to go and slotted in nicely alongside Sergi Roberto. The ambitious youngster almost single-handedly created Barca's equaliser after a textbook, overlapping move from the left wing. p>FW Wilfrid Kaptoum, n/a -- On for Sandro after 81 minutes and converted the only clear goal-scoring chance he got with a confident tap-in.