Valverde expecting “great tie” as Barca are drawn against Real Madrid in cup

Ernesto Valverde feels Barcelona’s Copa del Rey semi-final against Real Madrid will be a “fascinating tie.”

Following Friday’s draw for the last four, the clubs will meet at the Nou Camp in the first leg next Wednesday, with the return clash then taking place on February 26.

The second leg is four days before they meet once more at the Bernabeu in LaLiga.

Barca boss Valverde, whose table-toppers host Valencia in the league on Saturday, was quoted by Marca as saying on Friday: “It will be a great tie between two great teams who are both fighting to win LaLiga and the Champions League.

“All of this makes for an excellent spectacle for both the teams and the fans alike.

“It is bound to be a fascinating tie and it will be interesting to see who makes it through to the final.

“They were going through a poor run of form in the league but they have turned it around and we know that it will be a tough match.”

The last meeting between the clubs was Barca’s 5-1 league triumph at the Nou Camp on October 28 – what proved Real’s last match before sacking boss Julen Lopetegui.

Former Spain coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked by Real Madrid following a 5-1 defeat at the Nou Camp (Nick Potts/PA)

With Santiago Solari now at the helm, the European champions – third in the table, 10 points adrift of Barcelona – have played 11 league games, winning eight of them.

That includes victories in each of the last three as they bounced back from a 2-0 home loss against Real Sociedad.

They and Barca are joined in the Copa Del Rey semis by Valencia, who will take on Real Betis.

Valencia’s 3-1 quarter-final second-leg victory over Getafe on Tuesday came three days on from a 3-0 league win against Villarreal.

Valverde – whose men are five points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid after winning their last eight league games – said of seventh-spotted Los Che: “Valencia are once again looking very good in front of goal.

“It reminds me of how they were last year; they started the season in fine form.

“Their approach has been very similar this year and they look a lot more confident in front of goal and they are taking their chances and climbing the table.”

Valencia boss Marcelino, quoted on their official website, said: “We started with eight matches to be in a final (Copa del Rey), now we have two to play and we hope to do very well to reach the final.

“But now we are going to an attractive stadium (to play) against an important rival such as Barcelona.

“We hope to make things very difficult, looking for a positive result.”

Also, Valverde has been speaking about Jean-Clair Todibo, whose move to Barcelona has been brought forward.

Todibo, who can play as a midfielder or centre-back, was set to join in the summer when his contract with Toulouse ran out.

But Barca announced on Thursday agreement had been reached for the 19-year-old Frenchman to join them with immediate effect, on a deal running to the end of 2022-23.

Valverde said on Friday: “He is a player we were originally going to sign next season but given the circumstances at his old club, we decided to finalise the deal in January, so that he can get to know his new team-mates and our style of play.

“It is no secret that we were short of central defenders for a while. Now we have five.”

Todibo was not included in Barca’s 19-man squad to face Valencia, with back-up goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen also absent after tearing a calf muscle in training which is set to sideline him for around six weeks.

- Press Association

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