Barcelona seek redemption with Copa del Rey title

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde
Updated 24 May 2019
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Barcelona seek redemption with Copa del Rey title

BARCELONA: Although Barcelona is still smarting from its collapse at Liverpool two weeks ago, the team has another cup final to play in this weekend.

The Spanish champions can complete a second straight domestic double when it faces Valencia on Saturday in the Copa del Rey final.

“It’s the last game of the season and we need to win so we can go on vacation with a better feeling than the one we had after the match against Liverpool,” Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet said. “That’s why we want to win this final.”

Barcelona has won a record 30 Copa del Rey titles, including the last four, but it was eliminated from the Champions League by Liverpool after blowing a 3-0 lead from the first leg.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde could have a lot riding on the outcome of the game against Valencia, which will be played on neutral turf in Seville.

We cannot knock this Copa. After the Copa we will be able to draw conclusions on how to improve and aspire to win it all in the coming seasons.

Josep Bartomeu, Barcelona president

While Valverde has had an almost impeccable record in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey since taking charge two years ago, many Barcelona fans now doubt he can win it all in Europe. So while another cup is almost expected by Barcelona’s supporters, a loss to Valencia would increase the pressure on the club to consider a coaching change.

Knowing his coach is under scrutiny, Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said Thursday that the club “completely backs Valverde.”

“We cannot knock this Copa,” Bartomeu said. “After the Copa we will be able to draw conclusions on how to improve and aspire to win it all in the coming seasons.”

Barcelona will play without striker Luis Suárez, who underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus injury in his right knee following the loss to Liverpool. Suarez scored 25 goals for Barcelona this season, second only to Lionel Messi and his 50 goals.

Forward Ousmane Dembele is also out with a muscle injury, while goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen will most certainly keep his starting job after the club said Marc-Andre ter Stegen has pain in his right knee and will not be available.

Valencia has had a very strong second half of the season. It surged up the league standings to finish fourth and earn a Champions League berth, and it reached the Europa League semifinals before losing to Arsenal.

It will be seeking its eighth Copa del Rey title and first since 2008.

“(Valencia) is a very compact, solid team, with a strong defense, a talented goalkeeper, which transitions very quickly to attack with players who take advantage of open spaces,” Lenglet said. “We have to be very careful with Valencia because it is very dangerous.”


Amir Khan says agreement made for Manny Pacquiao Riyadh bout in November

Updated 16 July 2019
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Amir Khan says agreement made for Manny Pacquiao Riyadh bout in November

  • The two boxers came close to a fight in 2017, but negotiations fell through
  • The two boxers are known to be good friends and spent years sparring with each in the US

LONDON: British boxer Amir Khan said on Tuesday that a deal has been agreed for a fight against Manny Pacquiao on November 8 in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking at his gym in the British city of Bolton the former world champion said the fight would happen in Riyadh, adding that the bout had been “signed by both parties.”
Pacquiao, 40, has a scheduled fight with American Keith Thurman in Las Vegas on Saturday and, barring any potential rematch, would be available to fight Khan in the Kingdom.
“It’s on, unless he gets injured or he says he is going to retire after the fight and then the fight won’t happen, but he is interested in the fight as well,” Khan told Boxing Social.
The two boxers came close to a fight in 2017, but negotiations fell through and the bout never materialized.

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READ MORE: Amir Khan beats Billy Dib in Jeddah on ‘fight night of the year’

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“It is going to be amazing, because it’s been a long time we’ve been chasing that fight. I’ve been chasing the big names like (Floyd) Mayweather and Pacquiao for a long, long time but those fights never happened.
“But now it has come to a stage where we both signed on that dotted line, so hopefully he is going to be the next (fight).
“To have him sign that dotted line is brilliant and no matter how he does against Thurman, I still think it’s a big fight.
“Hopefully he comes out of it in one piece in his next fight against Keith, which is a hard fight and not an easy one for him, and we will take it from there.”
The British boxer, 32, scored a stoppage win over Australia’s Billy Dib in Saudi Arabia last Friday and soon after his win was talking up the prospect of landing Pacquiao as his next fight.

Eight-division world champion boxer Manny Pacquiao smiles as he arrives for a workout in Hollywood, California on July 10. (AFP/File Photo)

On the prospect of returning to Saudi Arabia, Khan said his experience in the Dib fight had been “amazing” and that it was hard to turn down a deal to fight in the Kingdom.
“I was little bit nervous, because I did not know what to expect — whether it would be full or not, or if people would turn up to support — but it was amazing. I think the next one is going to be even bigger.
“The experience was awesome, I was looked after by the GSA (General Sports Authority) and the Saudi government took good care of us, the gyms were amazing. I would love to go back over there.”
When asked if he ever doubted whether his dream fight against Pacquiao would happen, Khan agreed.
“I’ve waited so long but you cannot really put all your eggs in one basket, and definitely say this is going to be the next fight.

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READ MORE: Gloves off as world champion boxer Amir Khan dreams of ‘more fights in Saudi Arabia’

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“I hope it is him but we will have to look at back up plans. I’ve always wanted to fight him. It’s the biggest fight out there for me,” he told the BBC.
The two boxers are known to be good friends and spent years sparring with each in the US while training under the mentorship of trainer Freddie Roach.
The Filipino legend has not yet officially announced any bout with Khan and on social media appears focused on Saturday’s fight.
“When I sparred him he was at his peak,” Khan said. “I got good rounds with him and did really well. I have probably sparred between 200 and 300 rounds with him. He has slowed down a bit.”
Pacquiao has 61 wins, seven defeats and two draws in a 24-year professional career, while Khan has 34 wins and five defeats.