Barcelona handed difficult draw in Copa del Rey
Barcelona were handed arguably the toughest possible route to retaining their Copa del Rey title after being paired against 2007 winners Sevilla for the last 16 before then potentially meeting 2008 winners Valencia in the quarter-finals.
Barcelona ended an 11-year wait to get their hands on the cup last season when they trounced Athletic Bilbao 4-1 in the final, earning Pep Guardiola his first trophy as coach of the Catalan giants. That cup success was Barca's 25th in the competition, two more than second-placed Athletic, but they must do it the hard way if they are to make it 26 this year after Sevilla were placed in their way.
Sevilla, who beat Getafe 1-0 in the final three seasons ago to pick up only their fourth cup crown, are currently third in the Primera Division standings, four points behind leaders Barca. The first leg of that tie will be played on January 6 at Camp Nou, with the return meeting taking place at Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan home a week later.
Another mouthwatering tie for the last 16 saw Valencia drawn against Deportivo La Coruna, two clubs that have also enjoyed flying starts to the season. Valencia, who also beat Getafe in the final to win the Copa del Rey in 2008, have lost just one of their 20 competitive matches so far this season, while Depor are the surprise packages of the Primera Division so far, sitting level with fourth-placed Valencia on 25 points from 12 games.
And it will be the winner of that two-legged tie who will face either Barca or Sevilla in the quarter-finals, with the draws for both that round and the semi-finals also having been made today.
In another last 16 tie, Alcorcon's reward for their sensational elimination of Real Madrid in the previous round is a clash with Racing Santander. Alcorcon, who play in the third tier of Spanish football, stunned big-spending neighbours Madrid 4-1 on aggregate after causing shockwaves with their 4-0 home win in the first leg.
In the other last 16 matches, Atletico Madrid face Recreativo Huelva, Villarreal play Celta Vigo, Malaga meet Getafe, Real Mallorca were drawn against Rayo Vallecano, and Osasuna take on Hercules.