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Barcelona to face Sevilla in Copa del Rey quarterfinals

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MADRID (AP) Barcelona will face Sevilla in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey, setting up a rematch of last year’s final.

Barcelona has won the Spanish cup for the past four years. It routed Sevilla 5-0 in last year’s final, and also beat Sevilla 2-0 in the 2016 final.

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The draw on Friday was held minutes after the Spanish football federation announced Barcelona would stay in after avoiding a scare involving its alleged use of an ineligible player.

The judge overseeing competition disputes for the federation ruled Levante’s complaint against Barcelona’s lineup from their round-of-16 tie was filed after the 48-hour deadline.

Sevilla will host the first leg next week, with the return leg in Camp Nou coming one week later.

The other quarterfinal ties are Real Madrid vs. Girona, Getafe vs. Valencia and Espanyol vs. Real Betis.

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Barcelona reach Copa del Rey QF but could be disqualified

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MADRID (AP) Barcelona earned a spot in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey on Thursday, but its continued participation in the tournament remains under threat.

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Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele led Barcelona to a comfortable 3-0 win over Levante at Camp Nou Stadium, helping it advance 4-2 on aggregate. However, the Catalan club could be disqualified for allegedly using a suspended player in the first leg.

Levante said it will make a formal complaint to the Spanish soccer federation on Friday, ahead of the draw for the quarterfinals.

The four-time defending Copa champion has denied any wrongdoing for using youth player Juan “Chumi” Brandariz in last week’s match in Valencia.

“We don’t have any doubts,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “We believe we will be in the draw tomorrow. We did everything right and we won on the field, which is where we had to win.”

Levante said Chumi should not have played because of an accumulation of yellow cards with Barcelona’s “B” team, arguing that his suspension applied to the senior team as well, including in Copa matches.

“We prefer to win on the field, but the regulations exist and everyone needs to follow them,” Levante coach Paco Lopez said. “Let’s see what happens.”

The Spanish federation is expected to rule on Levante’s complaint before Friday’s draw.

Real Madrid was eliminated in the tournament’s round of 16 in 2015 for using striker Denis Cheryshev while he was suspended.

“We are surprised, we found out about it by the press,” Barcelona spokesman Josep Vives said. “We analyzed the situation and concluded that Chumi’s participation was legal.”

With Messi back in the lineup after being rested in the first leg, Barcelona easily reversed the 2-1 deficit from the first match. The Argentine playmaker set up goals by Dembele in the 30th and 31st minutes, then sealed the victory by scoring in the 54th.

Barcelona has made it at least to the quarterfinals in the Copa in nine straight seasons. It won the title five times in the last seven years.

Earlier Thursday, Espanyol defeated Villarreal 3-1 at home with two goals by striker Borja Iglesias to advance 5-3 on aggregate, while Real Betis salvaged a 2-2 draw at Real Sociedad to reach the last eight on away goals after a 0-0 first-leg draw.

Real Madrid, Girona, Valencia, Getafe and Sevilla also made it to the quarterfinals. Atletico Madrid was eliminated by Girona on Wednesday.

Girona shocks Atletico Madrid behind stunning goals

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Co-owned by Pep Guardiola and the City Football Group, Girona isn’t your average minnow. However, what Girona did on Wednesday is worthy of a closer look.

Girona came back from a goal down on two occasions, eventually scoring on a breath-taking counter attack in the 88th minute to advance past Atletico Madrid, 4-4 on away goals at the Wanda Metropolitano. With the draw, Girona advances to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey, the farthest it has ever gone so far in the competition.

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Nikola Kalinic put the hosts up 1-0 early, but that was before Valery Fernandez, who made his first-team debut in La Liga just last month, became a household name around Spain and the talk of the internet. Fernandez touch a touch on a cross into the box with his chest and then on the volley, rifled a goal past Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Antonio Adan.

Cristhian Stuani and Angel Correa traded goals, before Antoine Griezmann put Atleti back in front with a goal in the 84th minute.

But four minutes later, a turnover in midfield led to a break for Girona, where veteran forward Seydou Doumbia re-directed a shot from Borja Garcia in to give Girona the result it needed.

Without Messi, Barcelona loses to Levante in Copa del Rey

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MADRID (AP) Barcelona could not overcome the absence of Lionel Messi and other regular starters on Thursday, losing 2-1 at Levante in the first leg of the Copa del Rey’s round of 16.

Barcelona’s second-stringers struggled from the start in Valencia, escaping an even greater defeat only because Levante’s forwards squandered some clear scoring chances.

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The return game is next Thursday at Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona, when the four-time defending champion is expected to have some of its starters back in action after they were rested this week.

Levante took the lead early with a close-range header by Uruguayan defender Erick Cabaco in the third minute, and striker Borja Mayoral scored the second goal with a low cross shot in the 18th.

The hosts kept threatening throughout the match, taking advantage of a Barcelona defense that was without Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba. Newly signed Colombian player Jeison Murillo was making his club debut in central defense.

“We got off to a great start,” Mayoral said. “We pressed early because we knew they were not used to playing together.”

Without Messi and Luis Suarez in attack, the Catalan club had difficulties creating scoring opportunities. The trio of Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele and Malcom was largely ineffective, and the team’s lone goal came late with a penalty kick converted by Coutinho in the 85th after substitute Denis Suarez got past a defender and was fouled inside the area.

“In the second leg hopefully we will take advantage of Coutinho’s goal,” Murillo said.

Barcelona routed Levante 5-0 in Valencia in a league match in December.

SEVILLA THRIVES

Sevilla, a Copa finalist in two of the last three seasons, cruised to a 3-1 away win over Athletic Bilbao with goals by Manuel “Nolito” Agudo, Andre Silva and Wissam Ben Yedder.

Mikel San Jose scored for Athletic, which is fighting against relegation in the Spanish league.

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The teams face each other again in the league on Sunday. Their second-leg match in the Copa is next week in Seville.

Also Thursday, Real Betis was held by visiting Real Sociedad to a 0-0 draw.

On Wednesday, Real Madrid defeated Leganes 3-0 at home, while Atletico Madrid drew 1-1 at Girona.

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Atletico, Barcelona, Sevilla power through in Copa

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MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid was so poor in the first half against fourth-division visitor Sant Andreu that a shock Copa del Rey elimination wasn’t a far-fetched possibility on Wednesday.

But three goals in the opening 10 minutes of the second period guided Atletico’s second-string team to a 4-0 victory at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

Barcelona and Sevilla also beat lower division clubs, while Villarreal recorded an 8-0 rout of second tier Almeria with four goals by Cameroon striker Karl Toko-Ekambi.

Thomas Lemar scored for Atletico in the 48th minute, Nikola Kalinic in the 53rd, Angel Correa in the 55th and Victor “Vitolo” Machin in the 81st to secure Diego Simeone’s team a place in the last 16 following a 5-0 aggregate victory.

“We struggled in the first half. We weren’t able to play with quick transitions,” said Simeone after his 400th Atletico match. “Everything changed in the second half. After the first goal the team played more freely.”

Atletico was without Diego Costa because of injury, while Antoine Griezmann and several other regular starters were rested by Simeone, who was banned from the bench as he served the second of a three-game suspension following a rant in a Copa match against Sevilla last season.

Substitute Lemar went on at halftime and was key for Atletico, opening the scoring with a right-footed shot from outside the area. Kalinic added a header and Correa produced a fine finish with the outside of his right foot. Vitolo’s goal from close range came after a pass by Saul Niguez.

BARCELONA BOOST

Barcelona advanced 5-1 on aggregate after its reserves cruised past third division Cultural Leonesa 4-1 at Camp Nou Stadium.

Denis Suarez scored a goal in each half while Munir El Haddadi and Malcom were on target before halftime. Josep Sene netted in the second period for Cultural, the club owned by the Qatari state.

Barcelona midfielder Ricard “Riqui” Puig, 19, set up one of Suarez’s goals on his debut.

“It was a dream come true,” Puig said. “I used to come to this stadium when I was three.”

Malcom went off in the final minutes with an apparent knee injury.

TOKO-EKAMBI’S NIGHT

Toko-Ekambi became the first Villarreal player to score four goals in a match this century, leading the club to an 11-3 aggregate win. He netted three times in the first half and once in the second.

Carlos Bacca scored twice, while Gerard Moreno and Dani Raba added a goal each.

TOP-TIER CLASHES

In all first-division ties, Girona came from behind to defeat Alaves 2-1 and advance 4-3 on aggregate, while Real Sociedad beat Celta Vigo 2-0 to go through 3-1 overall.

Alaves struck first at Montilivi Stadium in Catalonia with an own-goal by Pedro Alcala in the 62nd minute, but the hosts rallied through Alex Granell in the 74th and Cristian “Portu” Portugues in the 79th to reach the last 16 for the first time.

Sociedad sunk Celta with two superb goals by Mikel Oyarzabal and Adnan Januzaj.

Oyarzabal netted in the 10th with a booming long-range shot into the top corner, and Januzaj scored in the 27th with a curling strike.

OTHER RESULTS

Sevilla edged third division Villanovense 1-0 to advance following a 0-0 first-leg draw. Andre Silva scored the winner early in the second half, converting the rebound after missing a penalty.

Valladolid came from behind to defeat second tier Mallorca 2-1 and progress 4-2 on aggregate.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni