Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman claims that the Copa del Rey is a better path to silverware than the title of La Liga and has said that he will field a strong team at Rayo Vallecano in Wednesday’s last-16 tie to ensure his side advance in the competition.
In the La Liga standings, Barca is seventh, 10 points behind Atletico Madrid’s runaway leaders, who also have a game in hand.
But they remain the only side in the top three left in the Copa after Real Madrid knocked out the Alcoyano third division last week and Cornella sent Atletico Madrid packing earlier in the month.
After extra-time last week, Barca defeated Cornella 2-0 and after losing the Spanish Super Cup final to Athletic Bilbao, the Copa looks more and more like their best chance at a trophy in a stop-start season.
In the last 16 of the Champions League, the Catalans face Paris St Germain.
“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.”
After the Argentine completed a two-game suspension, Koeman was bolstered by the return of Lionel Messi, 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.”