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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 21, 2008

Barcelona hoping to break El Madrigal hoodoo

Barcelona will look to improve on their previous couple of visits to El Madrigal this week when they take on Villarreal in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final.

Back in October, Barca conceded three times in the opening 35 minutes against Villarreal en route to a 3-1 Primera Liga defeat.

That ended a six-match winning streak in all competitions for Barca and it was also their first league loss since last April when they were beaten 2-0 - also by Villarreal at El Madrigal.

'I hope that the experience of the league game we played in Villarreal will serve us well in the cup,' said Barca midfielder Andres Iniesta.

Striker Bojan Krkic, who netted Barca's consolation goal during that 3-1 league defeat earlier this season, added: 'Villarreal is a difficult place to go and we will try to get a good result from the first leg.'

With Primera Liga champions Real Madrid and holders Sevilla both out of the cup, Barca and Villarreal are among the favourites to win this year's title.

However, Atletico Madrid and Valencia will also be viewing the competition as a realistic chance of silverware heading into their quarter-final encounter at the Mestalla on Wednesday.

Atletico at least have the UEFA Cup to challenge for as well, but for crisis club Valencia the Copa del Rey represents the last realistic hope they have of salvaging something from a dismal season.

Valencia's 3-0 defeat at local rivals Villarreal this weekend means they have now gone eight league matches without a win, and although Ronald Koeman's men are still eighth in the standings, they are now just five points above the relegation zone.

Atletico also go into the match on the back of a defeat following their 2-0 home reverse to local rivals Real, but Rojiblancos captain Maxi Rodriguez has urged his side to put that result behind them.

'During the week we said that we have to fight to finish third or fourth in the league and fight for the Copa del Rey. We need to turn the page and continue forward,' said the Argentina international.

In Wednesday's other tie, Real Mallorca make a quick return to Madrid as they take on 2007 runners-up Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

Mallorca last week ended Real Madrid's 13-match winning streak at the Bernabeu, with a 1-0 victory in the capital helping the Balearic Island side earn a 3-1 aggregate win over the champions.

The fourth quarter-final takes place on Thursday - the same day as the Villarreal-Barca game - and pits Racing Santander against 23-time winners Athletic Bilbao, with the first leg taking place at El Sardinero.