We’re not saying Spanish football officials should just hand Barcelona the Copa del Rey trophy right now, before the field for the semifinal round is even set, but we’re not saying they shouldn’t, either.
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The Blaugrana survived a bit of a scare in the quarterfinals on Wednesday — as much as a side possessing the three-headed monster of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez can be given, at least — when they fell behind 1-0 (level at 2-2 on aggregate) to a very game Athletic Bilbao side that already hammered the reigning Spanish, Spanish cup and European champions once this season.
With three-quarters of the quarterfinal tie in the books, Barca’s standing was tenuous; one more goal from Bilbao would put the underdogs in the driver’s seat for a place in the semifinals.
What happened next was predictable: Suarez restored the aggregate in the 53rd minute; Gerard Pique made it 4-2 on aggregate in the 81st minute; Neymar rounded out the scoring in the 90th.
Now past perhaps the trickiest remaining opponent, it’s hard to see anything other than a red and blue coronation on May 21, much of which they have to think their biggest, richest Spanish oppositions, the Madrid clubs — Real, who were forced to withdraw last month, and Atletico, who were knocked out on Wednesday — for making Barca’s path to a 28th Copa del Rey trophy that much easier.
Los Rojiblancos fell behind Celta Vigo, who for half of the league season put together a real push for a top-four place in La Liga, after 22 minutes, when Pablo Hernandez opened the scoring. Antoine Griezmann fired Atlti level on the day, but behind on away goals in the aggregate (0-0 first leg).
Not long after halftime, former Manchester City youngster John Guidetti made it 2-1, and Hernandez made it 3-1 just past the hour mark. Angel Correa pulled one back late for Atleti, but the damage was done and two more goals were still needed, none of which would come.
And with that, Barca’s path to another domestic cup goes through two of Celta, Mirandes and Sevilla, who play Thursday, and Las Palamas and Valencia, who also play Thursday.