Saturday, September 23, 2017

Barcelona v Sevilla: Rakitic expects stern test from old club in Copa del Rey final

SoccerNews in La Liga 20 May 2016

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Ivan Rakitic expects former club Sevilla to cause Barcelona plenty of problems in Sunday’s Copa del Rey final at the Vicente Calderon.

Copa holders Barca clinched the Liga title on the final day of the season with a 3-0 win over Granada and will have enjoyed two weeks’ rest before they bid to win a second successive domestic double.

Sevilla, on the other hand, come into the match off the back of a Europa League final triumph – an incredible third in three years – against Liverpool in Basle, and will have had just four days to recover for the Copa showdown.

But Rakitic, who swapped the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan for Camp Nou in 2014, expects his old boss Unai Emery to have Sevilla meticulously prepared to cause an upset.

“When you’re in a final, you have to be at 100 per cent, no matter what,” he said on Thursday. “It’s one game, you have to come out firing on all cylinders. Nobody gives you anything.

“We have to go out and play hard. We respect Sevilla, we know they’ll play as hard as they can as well.

“Knowing their team and their coach, I know they prepare their games to the finest detail. It’s a final against a great team but we have to have a lot of confidence. We’ve had some tough games this season but we’re going to come out battling. It’s the last game of the season – there’s no better way to do it.”

Sevilla’s campaign started with a thrilling UEFA Super Cup clash against Barca in Tbilisi, with Pedro scoring the crucial goal in a 5-4 extra-time victory for last season’s Champions League winners.

Emery’s side gained some measure of revenge by beating the league champions 2-1 in October, although they went on to lose the reverse match in February by the same scoreline during a Liga campaign in which they failed to win a single game away from home.

But with a huge number of supporters expected to make the trip north for Sunday’s clash, Emery is confident his players will be fired up to finish the week with their first Copa success in six years.

“We have another final now, which is the icing on the cake,” he said. “We’re motivated and excited, and a lot of people who couldn’t come to Basle will come to Madrid. 

“We have to prepare for it and it’ll be a new challenge. We can beat teams who are better than us.”

Barca were given a boost on Thursday when goalkeeper Claudio Bravo (calf) and winger Sandro Ramirez (thigh) were given the medical all-clear, although Marc-Andre ter Stegen is expected to start in goal, having played in all the previous rounds.

Long-term absentees Michael Krohn-Dehli (knee), Benoit Tremoulinas (knee) and Marco Andreolli (Achilles) remain sidelined for Sevilla, while Jose Antonio Reyes – recovering from appendix surgery – is expected to be out.

Adil Rami will face fitness tests after picking up a knock against Liverpool.

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