Koeman eyes Copa del Rey as fastest route to trophy

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BARCELONA: Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman (pix) believes the Copa del Rey is a surer route to silverware than the La Liga title and has said he will field a strong team in Wednesday’s last-16 tie at Rayo Vallecano to ensure his side progress in the competition.

Barca are third in the La Liga standings, 10 points behind runaway leaders Atletico Madrid, who also have a game in hand.

But they remain the only side in the top three left in the Copa after Real Madrid were knocked out by third division Alcoyano last week and Atletico Madrid were sent packing earlier in the month by Cornella.

Barca overcame Cornella 2-0 after extra time last week and after losing the Spanish Super Cup final to Athletic Bilbao, the Copa is looking increasingly like their best shot at a trophy in a stop-start season.

The Catalans face Paris St Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League.

“We want to fight to win every competition, but being realistic and looking at Atletico’s advantage in the league and the form they’re in, it’s going to be very difficult,” Koeman told a news conference on Tuesday.

“As long as the league is possible we’ll keep trying. The Copa del Rey is shorter, there are fewer games and we are in it to win it and that’s what I want to see my team do.”

Koeman is boosted by the return of Lionel Messi after the Argentine completed a two-game suspension but the coach did not want to say whether or not his captain would feature.

“Messi has been feeling some discomfort recently but he’s had some time off and he’s feeling fresh and fit,” he said.

“He’s used to winning trophies and wants to play in every game so we’ll have a chat tomorrow and then I’ll pick the team but we won’t know until then.” – Reuters





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