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Barcelona cruise past Sevilla, lift historic 4th straight Copa del Rey

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MADRID (AP) Barcelona became the first team in 85 years to win four straight Copa del Rey titles after blowing away Sevilla 5-0 in the final on Saturday.

Luis Suarez scored twice, and Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Philippe Coutinho also made the scoresheet for Barcelona’s record-extending 30th Copa triumph, and sixth in the last decade.

Sevilla was trying to win a sixth Copa and save a season which will end without any trophies and maybe not even a place in the Europa League next season.

The final took place at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in the capital amid the ongoing political turmoil involving Catalonia’s bid for independence.

There were jeers by part of the Barcelona crowd when the national anthem was played, but the boos were largely subdued by the reaction of the numerous Sevilla fans in the crowd. Spain’s King Felipe VI smiled and saluted the fans after the anthem.

No other team had won four Copa titles in a row since Athletic Bilbao from 1930-33. The only other team to do it was Real Madrid from 1905-08.

Barcelona lost a chance to win the treble when it was eliminated by Roma in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, but it is three points away from winning the Spanish league.

WATCH: Suarez to Coutinho, and it’s Barca into the Copa del Rey Final

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Liverpool supporters will be familiar with both ends of Barcelona’s Copa del Rey Final-berth clinching duo.

Philippe Coutinho slid to meet a Luis Suarez cross just after halftime of Barca’s 2-0 second leg semifinal win over Valencia, as theΒ Blaugranas aim for their fourth-straight Cup.

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Ivan Rakitic scored Barca’s other goal, with the tie ending 3-0 on aggregate.

The goal is Coutinho’s first for Barcelona, coming in his fifth match with the club following a big money transfer from Liverpool.

Barca will face Sevilla in the April 21 final.

Leganes looks to extend fairy tale run in Copa del Rey

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MADRID (AP) It’s been historically hard to name the third best soccer team in Madrid.

No team has been able to achieve or sustain at least a smidgen of the success of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

The other teams from the capital, or its nearby suburbs, have come and gone in the first division. A few have thrived in the Copa del Rey. But through the years there has never been a clear answer to which one can be considered the city’s third power.

The latest side to have a go is Leganes, based just south of the capital.

On Wednesday, Leganes has a chance to advance to the Copa del Rey final for the first time in its 89-year history. It plays at Sevilla in the second leg of the semifinals. The first leg finished 1-1.

Beating Sevilla won’t be easy, but not impossible either, considering Leganes reversed a 1-0 first-leg loss against Real Madrid in the quarterfinals. It drew 2-2 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to keep alive its impressive run. It eliminated Villarreal in the previous round.

“We don’t have the obligation to win anything, only to give our best whenever we play,” Leganes coach Asier Garitano says.

Leganes had never made it to the Copa quarterfinals until this year. It is playing in the first division of Spanish football only for the second season. It was in the third tier four seasons ago. It has been a rapid rise.

Leganes began gaining some notoriety only in the early 1990s, when it made it to the second division for the first time. It spent nearly a decade back in the third tier, from 2004-2014, before making the run that took the club to the first division in 2016.

Part of the team’s success is linked to real estate businesswoman Victoria Pavon Palomo, who took over as club president in 2009 after her husband, Felipe Moreno Romero, became its biggest shareholder. They gradually revamped the club, which has been run much like a family business since then, with focus on maintaining financial stability.

With one of the smallest budgets in La Liga, Leganes has thrived without making huge signings, relying on local talent and loans.

The current squad has no top names. Its captain is veteran defender Martin Mantovani, who played for Atletico’s youth squads but never made it to a top club. The midfield has Ruben Perez, who also started his career with Atletico, and Gabriel Pires, who used to play in Italian soccer. The attack has Moroccan Nordin Amrabat and Claudio Beauvue.

The team hosts matches in the 11,000-capacity Butarque Stadium in Leganes, a city of nearly 200,000 people about 15 kilometers (nine miles) from Madrid. The club says it has about 9,000 members.

Its fans are called the “pepineros,” or cucumber growers, because of the vegetable for which the region was known for in the past.

The club said six buses with pepineros will make the trip to Seville for the semifinal on Wednesday.

Getafe is the only other Madrid-area team in the first division this season, having played in the top tier since 2004. There were five Madrid teams in the top-flight two seasons ago, when Rayo Vallecano also participated.

Atletico is second to Barcelona in the Spanish league, with Real Madrid in fourth. Getafe is 11th and Leganes 12th, with a game in hand. Getafe and Leganes drew 0-0 last weekend in the southern Madrid derby.

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Coutinho debuts, Messi, Suarez score as Barcelona advances in Copa

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MADRID (AP) Goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez guided Barcelona to a 2-0 victory over city rival Espanyol on Thursday and a place in the Copa del Rey semifinals.

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Barcelona had lost the first leg 1-0 last week, but quickly evened the series when Suarez headed home less than 10 minutes into the match at Camp Nou. Messi scored the goal that secured a 2-1 win on aggregate midway through the first half.

The match marked the debut of new Barcelona signing Philippe Coutinho, who came off the bench in the second half to replace Andres Iniesta.

Coutinho arrived from Liverpool at the beginning of the month but had been sidelined by a right leg muscle injury. The Brazilian playmaker was signed in a transfer worth up to 160 million euros (then $192 million), making him Barcelona’s most expensive player ever.

It’s the eighth straight season that Barcelona has made it to the Copa semifinals, having won the title for the last three years.


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Zidane: Copa Del Rey loss his lowest point, focus on Champions League

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Zinedine Zidane accepted responsibility after Real Madrid was dumped out of the Copa del Rey at the quarterfinals thanks to a pair of away goals from Leganes in what was a 2-2 aggregate draw.

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β€œI’m not angry with my players, I’m angry with myself,” Zidane said. “They give it their all, run hard… I am responsible. They have to accept a degree of the responsibility because they’re the ones out on the pitch. We’re all to blame, but I’m the one who’s responsible”.

He admitted the loss was his lowest point at the club, though it’s been a managerial run of greatness. Since taking over in 2016, Real has won two UEFA Champions League crowns, two FIFA Club World Cups, two UEFA Super Cups, and a La Liga crown.

But Real is fourth in La Liga this season, 19 points back of Barcelona with one match-in-hand, and now will not have a chance to end Barca’s run of three-straight Copa del Reys.

Zidane admits he must turn his focus to a third-straight Champions League crown, a feat no one’s done since Bayern Munich in 1976. It would also be a fourth title in five seasons, a measure which would only be topped by the five-straight it won to start the competition.

β€œOf course. We’ve lost one competition and we’re a long way off in LaLiga. Our objectives aren’t what we’d planned for at the start of the season. All we can do now is think about the remaining games, starting with Saturday, and prepare well for February 14.”

That’s when Real opens the Round of 16 with a visit from old foe Neymar and his new club, Paris Saint-Germain.