Sevilla hitting top gear for Barcelona Cup tie
MADRID, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Sevilla believe they are close to producing the form that won them two trophies last season going into their Copa Del Rey last 16 first leg showdown with Barcelona on Wednesday.
The UEFA and Copa holders swept aside city rivals Real Betis 3-0 in the Primera Liga on Sunday to take their tally to 11 goals from their last three outings in all competitions.
'The team are in good form and are reaching the standards of play that we put on last season,' Serbian defender Ivica Dragutinovic said after Sunday's victory.
An inconsistent start to the campaign, the death of midfielder Antonio Puerta and the change of coach from Juande Ramos to Manolo Jimenez did little to help their cause.
But they have recovered to qualify for the knockout phase of the Champions League and to close to within three points of the European places in the league, while cementing their reputation as big-match specialists.
They will be deprived of influential duo Frederic Kanoute and Seydou Keita who go to join up with Mali for the African Nations Cup.
Barcelona lose Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure for the same reason but have Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o for another week - a major psychological boost for a side struggling for form and confidence.
The 24-times Cup winners have been unimpressive on their travels but visit the Sanchez Pizjuan with a morale-boosting 2-0 league win over Real Mallorca under their belts from the weekend.
Few surprises are on the cards from the other seven ties as no teams from outside the Primera Liga made it through the previous round.
League leaders Real Madrid are keen to end a run of 15 years since their last Cup triumph (1993) but face a tricky trip to 2003 winners Mallorca on Thursday.
Nine-times winners Atletico Madrid have targeted the Cup as one of their objectives and have home advantage for the first leg against promoted Valladolid, also on Thursday.
On Wednesday, last season's finalists Getafe are at home to Levante and 2006 winners Espanyol visit 23-times winners Athletic Bilbao.
The 2005 victors Real Betis host a Valencia side whose only wins in their last 10 games in all competitions were the home and away triumphs over third division Real Union in the last round of the Cup.
Recreativo Huelva are at home to Villarreal and Real Zaragoza, three-times finalists in the last seven years, receive Racing Santander.
The return legs are scheduled for January 16.