Copa del Rey: Breaking Down the Last 16 Draw for Barcelona, Real Madrid & the Rest

?The newly revamped Copa del Rey is proving a big hit this year. While the Magic of the Copa™ may have been artificially inseminated (single-leg fixtures played at the home of the lower-ranked team), it has proved no less welcome.

30-time winners Barcelona went behind to third-tier UD Ibiza and had to rely on a double from Antoine Griezmann to get them out of trouble, while Unionistas de Salamanca (also third tier) won hearts and minds with their display against Real Madrid.

The recently formed community-owned club – ?whose celebrations after being drawn against Madrid went viral – gave ?Los Blancos a real test despite the eventual 3-1 defeat. 

FBL-ESP-CUP-UNIONISTAS SALAMANCA-REAL MADRID

However, the big story of the round was Cultural Leonesa (Segunda B) beating Diego Simeone’s ?Atletico Madrid 2-1.

The last time Los Rojiblancos went out to a Segunda B team was in 2011. The next day manager Gregorio Manzano was fired and replaced by (drum roll…) Diego Simeone.

The only thing that would’ve made it more embarrassing for the Argentine coach would have been if Leonesa had been wearing this kit.

Atleti weren’t the only Goliath felled in the round of 32, as Primera sides Mallorca, Espanyol, Celta Vigo and Real Betis all went out, while Bilbao needed penalties to get past Elche.

FBL-ESP-CUP-CULTURAL LEONESA-ATLETICO

In the words of The Spanish Football Podcast: #CopaDelYay.

Bring on the last 16!


2019/20 Copa del Rey Last 16 Draw

?Badajoz vs ?Granada
?Cultural Leonesa ?vs ?Valencia
?Tenerife ?vs Athletic Club?
?Real Zaragoza ?vs ?Real Madrid
?Mirandes vs? Sevilla?
?Rayo Vallecano vs? ?Villarreal
??Barcelona ?vs ?Leganes
?Real Sociedad ?vs ?Osasuna

As reward for being the last two Segunda B sides in the draw, Badajoz and Cultural Leonesa were drawn with Granada and Valencia respectively – the former perhaps less glamorous but eminently winnable. Amazingly, Badajoz are fourth in the division that also contains Granada’s B side.

After seeing off Atleti, Qatari-backed Leonesa – in the last 16 for the first time since 1960 – will be confident of facing whoever comes to the lion’s den, or Lion King Stadium as their home turf is genuinely called. Well, sort of – Estadio Reino de Leon.

Tenerife, Rayo and Mirandes can give life to middling seasons in the second tier with big scalps against their Primera opponents. Perhaps high-flying Sevilla travelling the length of Spain from Andalusia to the Basque Country and the sub-6,000-seater Estadio Municipal de Anduva represents the biggest piece of discarded yellow fruit.


Zaragoza – who are seeking promotion back to the top flight under former Copa del Rey winner as a player Victor Fernandez – hosting Real Madrid is arguably the tie of the round.

Barcelona face off against relegation battlers Leganes in a fixture that looks infinitely less anxiety-inducing for Quique Setien than, say, away to Rayo or Leonesa…

The other all-Primera match-up sees Europe-chasing Real Sociedad host Osasuna – a contest that finished 4-3 in the league just last month.

The last 16 ties will be played in a single-match format on 28, 29 and 30 of January.

Let’

90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings: Week 18 – Derry Girls Special

?Following a week in which: 

– Liverpool won AGAIN hi.

– Benfica won AGAIN hi.

– Ciro Immobile scored AGAIN hi.

– Brendan Rodgers whitened his teeth AGAIN hi. 

We, using quotes from my hometown’s favourite TV show Derry Girls, rank the 15 best football teams in Europe. Lethal hi. 


15. Willem II (New Entry) 

Damil Dankerlui

“Slainte muthaf**kas!”

Didn’t expect to see Willem II in the Definitive European Power Rankings, did you? Neither did I to be honest, but because it’s been a pretty lean week, I scoured Eredivisie and found William Shatner FC are actually really good. 

They’re unbeaten in their last seven league games, and have beaten Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and AZ Alkmaar in recent weeks. That’s impressive. 

So raise a glass to Willem II, and congratulate them on their first ever appearance in 90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings. Leefs hi. 


14. Schalke 04 (New Entry) 

Yevhen Konoplyanka

“Directly before the weeping, can you remember what you were doing? What you were talking about?”

After a Christmas period of mourning the loss of their prodigious goalkeeper – Alexander Nübel – to Bayern Munich (yeah, that’s happened before…), Schalke 04 stopped weeping, dusted themselves down and got back to business. 

And by back to business, we mean beat high-flying Borussia Monchengladbach. Pure class hi. 


13. Marseille (New Entry) 

FBL-FRA-CUP-TRELISSAC-MARSEILLE

“Ach, Fionnula, what about you? I thought I could smell vinegar!”

Ach, Andre Villas-Boas, what about you? I thought I could smell Premier League flop! 

And after flopping, in a big, big way in England, it looked like AVB’s managerial career might’ve been dead and buried. 

But now he’s back, in pog form (wrong show, but it had to be done)! 

The former ‘next big thing’ is making waves in France with Marseille, playing some of the best football in Europe and guiding them to second in Ligue 1. Fair play hi. 


12. Bayern Munich (Up 2) 

Thomas Mueller,. Thiago Alcantara

“Oh, bunk. I’ll find some dirt on you yet, boy. I’ve got people working on it.”

?Bayern are working on it. 

They’re working on a way to reinvigorate their squad. 

They’re working on a way to challenge RB Leipzig at the top of the Bundesliga. 

They’re working on a way to get out of paying £120m for a Philippe Coutinho – because he’s pure brock hi. 


11. Benfica (Up 2) 

Players of SL Benfica celebrate

“Step aside, we are armed.”

Benfica’s last 14 Primeira Liga games: 

Played: 14. 

Won: 14. 

Drawn: 0.

Lost: 0.

Goals Scored: 37.

Goals Conceded: 4.

Goal Difference: +29. 

Step aside Portuguese football teams, Benfica are armed and dangerous. Far too good hi. 


10. Barcelona (-)

Quique Setien

“They were having a party. I could hear the music.”

Thou shall not make any Ibiza jokes. Thou shall not make any Ibiza jokes. Thou shall not make any Ibiza jokes. They’re lazy and everyone else has done them…

The Quique Setien era at ?Barcelona began in earnest this past week, with the former Real Betis overseeing surprisingly slender wins over Granada and Ibiza.

The mediocre performance in Ibiza was probably largely due to the fact that the Barcelona players were TOO BUSY RAVING WITH WAYNE LINEKER AND TIESTO AND [INSERT DJ NAME HERE] WAHEYYYYYYYYYYYYYY to care about the match. Nearly refrained hi. 


9. Manchester City (-)

Aymeric Laporte

“What are we going to do?”

“Well maybe we could start with calming the f**k down.”

Don’t panic ?Manchester City, the only player at the club who can actually defend is now fully fit. And judging by the fact that his return coincided with the Citizens’ first clean sheet in five games, that’s a pretty good thing. 

Nice one hi. 


8. Inter (Down 3) 

Romelu Lukaku

“Does anyone have 10p, I’m ringing Childline.”

“You can’t ring Childline every time your mother threatens to kill you.”

?Inter, you can’t sign a Premier League player every time you drop points. That isn’t going to work. 

What you really need is a tactical plan B. You need to work out a way to win games when you’re not going “100 km/h”. 

That’s the key hi. 


7. Leicester City (-) 

FBL-ENG-PR-LEICESTER-WEST HAM

“Lovely, altogether. You know, every year I sit backstage listening to the singers and it really makes me realise just how talented the professionals who originally recorded these tracks were.”

Big Brendy Baps and ?Leicester City are lovely, altogether. They absolutely pummelled West Ham in midweek and sit pretty comfortably in the top three. 

You know, watching them really makes me realise just how good Liverpool are, because they’re 19 points clear of Leicester City. That’s mad hi. 


6. Paris Saint-Germain (Up 2) 

Neymar Jr,Kylian Mbappe

“Great show.”

Kylian Mbappe’s Ligue 1 stats:

 

Games Played: 14.

Goals: 13.

Assists: 4.

Neymar’s Ligue 1 stats: 

Games Played: 12. 

Goals: 11. 

Assists: 5. 

Great showing from the two most electric footballers in Europe. Absolutely unreal hi. 


5. Real Madrid (Down 1) 

Brahim Diaz

“Relax love, we’ve a good two or three hours before the rioting starts.”

Things are going really well at Real Madrid at the moment. They’re joint top of La Liga, through to the next round of the UEFA Champions League and the Copa del Rey, and all their golden oldies are performing. 

So we can fully expect all hell to break loose, riots to ensue and the sky to fall when they inevitably are knocked out of the Champions League by Manchester City. It’s going to be a disaster hi. 


4. SS Lazio (Up 2)

Ciro Immobile

“Well I am not being individual on me own.”

Usually 90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings team laud Ciro Immobile, at least, twice a week. However, this week, we thought that it’s high time we praised his supporting cast, because they’re all bloody brilliant too.

– Simone Inzaghi: You’re best manager in Italy; keep up the good work. 

– Thomas Strakosha: It’s very impressive to be this good at 24 years old. 

– Luiz Felipe: You’re only 22? Prospect much?! 

– Francesco Acerbi: We are so glad you’re still playing football, and doing so at the highest level. 

– Stefan Radu: Nice job with the whole conversion from left back to left centre back. Seamless. 

– Manuel Lazzari: What a signing you’ve been. 

– Sergej Milinkovic-Savic: You’re probably the best midfielder in Serie A. 

– Lucas Leiva: It’s weird how good you’ve been in recent years. 

– Luis Alberto: How did Liverpool not see how amazing you are? 

– Stefan Lulic: The best LWB in Serie A for over a decade. 

– Joaquin Correa: I just really enjoy watching you play football. 

Props to you all hi. 


3. RB Leipzig (Down 1) 

Julian Nagelsmann

“Lovely job so far Seamus, but, you know, keep it moving – Rawhide is on in 15 minutes.”

Lovely job so far Julian, but, you, keep it moving – Bayern Munich have won their last four and are just four points adrift of your RB Leipzig atop of the Bundesliga. Keep up the good work hi. 


2. Juventus (Up 1) 

FBL-ITA-CUP-JUVENTUS-UDINESE

“Orla has got really into step aerobics. Her instructor says she’s a natural. Says she’s got what it takes to go all the way.”

Maurizio Sarri has really got into this whole winning this. He’s a natural. 

So far this season, he’s become only the second manager since 1929/30 to win 14 of his first 15 home games with Juventus. Oh and he’s also accumulated more Serie A points in his first season in charge than any other manager in the club’s history. 

He’s got what it takes to go all the way with Juventus hi. 


1. Liverpool (-) 

TOPSHOT-FBL-ENG-PR-WOLVES-LIVERPOOL

“We’re basically celebrities now, we’re like The Corrs.”

The 2019/20 Liverpool team are basically the best team in Premier League history now, they’re like the Corrs…no that’s not right…I mean, they’re like a mix between Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’, Man City’s ‘Centurians’ and Manchester United’s treble winners all wrapped into one. 

Unbeatable hi. 


Let’

Adama Traore & 6 Other Surprising Stars to Have Passed Through Barcelona’s La Masia

?Barcelona’s La Masia academy is a place of great renown, responsible for producing some of the greatest footballers the game has ever seen and setting the standards for passing, possession-based football.

While granite-forged uncompromising tacklers like Carles Puyol have been developed at ‘The Farm’, the academy is far more associated with technical wizards such as Xavi, Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi. 

The footballing equivalents of cup and ball magicians who show and take away in a sleight-of-foot instant, then pass, pass and pass you into oblivion – ?players that ‘get you that carousel and make you dizzy’ as Sir Alex famously put it.

It seems odd then that ?Wolves’ tank-like dribble machine Adama Traore is too a product of the ?Barcelona school of football, spending 11 years there between 2004 and 2015.

Adama Traore

After mixed spells with Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, the 23-year-old is now the Premier League’s top dribble maker and has been one of the standout performers in England in 2019/20, grabbing his seventh assist of the campaign in the narrow defeat to Liverpool.

?Wolves’ unstoppable object ?has not ruled out a return to his unlikely alma mater in the future.

Here are six other players who it may surprise you to learn also spent time in La Masia


Mauro Icardi (Inter/Paris Saint-Germain)

Mauro Icardi

After scoring obscene numbers of goals as a pre-teen in the Canary Islands, Barcelona won the race to snap up a young Icardi up to their youth academy, where he played between 2008 and 2011.

However – as a player who frequently finishes matches with fewer touches than the goalkeeper – Icardi’s style clashed somewhat with Barça’s.

“Barcelona’s game was very different to my characteristics and we opted a change to Italian football, which is the one that suits me the most,” ?he said in an interview about his time in Catalonia.

Off-field drama aside, now 26, Icardi has twice won Serie A’s Capocannoniere since leaving Barça and is one of the world’s deadliest (if not the most defensive) strikers.


Oriol Romeu (Southampton)

Oriol Romeu

Quite at home getting muddy on a cold and wet Monday night away at [insert undesirable Premier League club here], Romeu seems a world away from Barcelona where he began his career.

Given his senior debut by Pep Guardiola in 2010 no less, Romeu made just two senior appearances before joining ?Chelsea eight-and-a-half years ago.

Barcelona’s buyback option was never exercised and Romeu has (after some loan spells in Spain and Germany) become one of the Premier League’s regular fixtures, often pushing the upper end of the tackles and cards charts at Southampton.


Martin Montoya (Brighton)

Martin Montoya

Not only did Brighton right back Montoya feature in La Masia, he graduated – playing 67 times for the Barcelona first team between 2011 and 2014 (often as a sub).

Like Romeu, the Catalan defender is seemingly more naturally suited to the muck and bullets approach of a Premier League scrap than tiki-taka.

He is Brighton’s second top tackler in the Premier League this season, while he has made the fewest passes of any of the Seagulls regular back four/five. The 28-year-old can get forward, and even play as a winger, but has just two assists and zero goals in his time with Brighton.


Sandro Ramirez (Everton/Real Valladolid)

Primera Division - "FC Barcelona v Levante UD"

Still technically an ?Everton player, Sandro represents the mistakes of the club’s recent transfer strategy.

On paper, back in 2017, he seemed like a no-brainer. The former Barça starlet had been banging them in for Malaga and had a release clause of just €6m. However, the forward scored just once in 16 appearances (never in the Premier League) and struggled to fit in on Merseyside.

Now in his third loan spell (Real Valladolid), Sandro has amazingly scored just two goals since the 2017/18 season back when he joined the Toffees.

Even at his early best, Sandro seemed like a burly, battering ram of a forward, unsuited to Barça’s philosophy. Now at still only 24, that has been borne out, but whether he will ever find the right club for him at the top level remains to be seen.


Pepe Reina (Milan/Aston Villa)

Gary McAllister,Jose Manual Reina

A fine and accomplished goalkeeper, it just feels a little odd that Reina started his career at Barcelona.

Following in his father Miguel Reina’s footsteps (who played over 100 times for Barça in the 60s and 70s), Madrid-born Pepe joined La Masia as a teen, coming through the system at a similar time to Iniesta, Xavi and Victor Valdes.

After signing Robert Enke and with Valdes coming through, Reina – the future cheerleader in chief for the Spanish national team during their best moments – was shipped out to Villarreal by Barça. However, that was not before losing to future employers ?Liverpool in the 2001 UEFA Cup semi-final, after conceding a Gary McAllister penalty (above).


Keita Balde Diao (Monaco)

Keita Balde

Born in Catalonia, Senegal international Keita was picked up by Barcelona as a youngster, spending seven years in La Masia between 2004 and 2011.

Discipline problems apparently cost him the chance to break through into the first team and the uber-direct, uber-pacey winger was offloaded to for just €300k Lazio.

After bagging 16 in the 2016/17 Serie A season, 24-year-old Keita has since struggled for consistency with Monaco and Inter.

Once again on a hot streak, he has five goals in as many games for Monaco, under new manager Robert Moreno. Discipline and holding onto the ball – the cornerstone of a good La Masia education – still remains an issue, however.


Let’

Why Liverpool Re-Signing Unwanted Philippe Coutinho Wouldn’t Be as Mad as it Sounds

?Since joining German champions Bayern Munich on loan from Barcelona last summer, Philippe Coutinho has struggled to make an impact and nail down his place.

On face value, six goals and five assists in 16 Bundesliga appearances isn’t a bad return for a midfielder. However, three of those goals and two assists came in just one game against Werder Bremen.

In case you can’t work it out yourself, that means he has picked up just three goals and three assists in his 15 other games, which isn’t massively inspiring considering his cost.

Philippe Coutinho

More than that he ranks only 29th in the Bundesliga charts for key passes and 46th for successful dribbles. He is way up in eighth for shots (46) but alarming few of those – the majority of which have come from outside of the box – have been converted.

As a result, ?reports now claim that ?Bayern are unlikely to sign the Brazilian permanently for the pre-agreed €120m next summer, unless his form drastically picks up, instead allowing him to return to Catalonia.

This will leave Coutinho in a state of limbo. Bayern don’t want him. ?Barca don’t want him. Where next for a player who was once considered one of the world’s best playmakers?

Well maybe, just maybe, Jurgen Klopp should bring him back to Liverpool.

Let’s get things straight: ?Liverpool did absolutely the right thing when they sold Coutinho for £120m+ and used that money to fund deals for Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and the rest. It transformed the Reds and made them European champions for the sixth time, and – dare I say it  – soon to be ?Premier League champions.

FBL-ENG-PR-SUNDERLAND-LIVERPOOL

However, should the 27-year-old be made available for the right price, then Liverpool could make yet another smart transfer move and bring him back to Anfield.

Coutinho knows the Premier League, and has played in a Jurgen Klopp system before. He was also pretty good in it. Therefore, he wouldn’t need time to adjust, and there is no denying the quality he would add to Liverpool’s midfield and attack.

He was also evidently a fan favourite, and despite the fact that his form (and popularity) dipped when he was eyeing a move to Barcelona, the Liverpool faithful would likely sing his name once more should he grab a goal on his debut. 

Philippe Coutinho

Coutinho may relish a return to Anfield too. He needs a move to reignite his career, and where better than the place he flourished and matured into the star he is today? This could be the fresh (re)start he needs.

However, where would he fit in? 

This Liverpool side are, of course, currently enjoying a season of near-unparalleled brilliance, and appear to be romping to their first Premier League title in record-breaking style. How can you squeeze a rogue, potentially divisive player into a side that is running like a well-oiled machine?

Well, he’s definitely not shifting any of the front three. ?Sadio Mane, ?Mohamed Salah and ?Roberto Firmino have their places cemented in this Liverpool side. 

FBL-EUR-C1-LIVERPOOL-SPARTAK

Looking at the Reds midfield, it is full of hard-working players and characters who are willing to run and hustle. This is what makes them so tough to beat, and it means the front three can also flourish.

However, if we are being really, really picky, Liverpool sometimes, sometimes struggle to open up sides who sit back and park the bus against them. Remember Bramall Lane earlier this season? Liverpool were lucky to snatch a 1-0 win which solely came after a shocking mistake from Sheffield United goalkeeper Dean Henderson.

Also, Liverpool’s only dropped points this season was at Old Trafford. Manchester United put the coach in park, and Klopp’s men simply couldn’t break them down. A late Adam Lallana goal salvaged a point for them which also came from a defensive mistake.

Adam Lallana

In recent weeks, they edged 1-0 wins against both Tottenham, Everton and Wolves – matches they very easily could have dropped points in.

But perhaps, having a playmaker of the calibre and class of Coutinho in those games could have turned those 1-0 wins into bigger margins, and future draws or defeats into victories. He’s someone who can open doors, someone who can produce a bit of magic out of nothing. How many time did we see Coutinho smash in a stunning goal from miles out for Liverpool out of simply nowhere?

Of course, he doesn’t have to play every game. Some games will require a midfield of ?Georginio Wijnaldum, ?Jordan Henderson and ?Fabinho. But some games may also require the little Brazilian to start in place of Henderson for example, where he can be the man tasked with breaking open a really solid defence.

Philippe Coutinho


If he is made available for the right price – not the €120m Bayern have been quoted – then it is a deal that may just make a fair bit of sense. 

When you’re operating at Liverpool’s level, It’s hard to find players, any players, who can actually improve the team. Coutinho might just do that, and Liverpool would certainly improve him again.

Let’

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ‘Seriously Considering’ Arsenal Future Amid Barcelona Interest

?Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is said to be seriously considering his future at the club amid ongoing speculation linking him with a move to Barcelona.

The Catalan giants are in the market for a new striker to provide immediate cover during Luis Suarez’s four-month injury absence, as well as long-term competition and depth.

Luis Suarez

With Aubameyang the highest profile player linked so far, new head coach Quique Setien confirmed earlier this week that plans for a new ‘number nine’ are being discussed.

According to a report from Mundo Deportivo (MD), the Gabon international is giving serious thought to leaving Arsenal because of the interest from Camp Nou.

It is suggested that Barcelona have even been given the green light from the player’s camp to indicate Aubameyang’s interest.

The report makes the point that Barça are well aware of Aubameyang’s contract situation, as well as his footballing preferences. His current Arsenal contract expires in 2021, which puts the Premier League side in a vulnerable position given that no agreement on a new deal is on the horizon.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Arsenal are understandably determined not to lose their key man and top goalscorer. Mundo Deportivo’s article ultimately puts the onus on the player himself to make any transfer happen, suggesting that he has to make it known that he wants to leave. Barcelona may not have a chance without that.

Aubameyang became Arsenal’s record signing when he joined the club from Borussia Dortmund for around £56m just two years ago. He took a share of the 2018/19 Premier League Golden Boot and has scored 57 times in 91 Arsenal appearances in all competitions to date.

In a potential deal as complicated as Aubameyang’s, the main thing against Barcelona is time, with just eight days until January transfer windows across Europe close.

FBL-ESP-CUP-IBIZA-BARCELONA

Barça have also been linked with Girona star Cristhian Stuani and Valencia’s Rodrigo in their hunt for a new forward. Both have been long-term targets. This time last year, the Catalans ended up making the ill-fated signing of former Ghana international Kevin-Prince Boateng on a short-term loan.


For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

Let’