5 things to know about the Copa del Rey

JOSEPH WILSON Associated Press Published:

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Atletico Madrid visits Valencia in the first leg of the last 16 of the Copa del Rey on Tuesday, only days before a key match against Barcelona with the Spanish league lead on the line.

Here are five things to know about this week's matches:



One matchup stands above all the rest in the Copa's last 16: defending champion Atletico Madrid vs. Valencia.

The two clubs boast 17 cups between them, and Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid -- the only clubs with more cups -- each play lower-profile opponents.

Atletico visits Valencia on Tuesday hoping not to get caught looking ahead to Sunday's league match against Barcelona with both teams level on points at the top the Spanish standings.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone has a deep squad to draw from, but he won't likely rest many members of the starting 11, which includes league-leading scorer Diego Costa.

"We have to focus on Valencia, which has a new coach who can complicate things for us," Simeone said. "Then we will have a great match at the Vicente Calderon (vs. Barcelona)."



Valencia will be under the orders of coach Juan Antonio Pizzi for only the second time since the Argentine took over for the fired Miroslav Djukic.

Pizzi guided his team to a 2-0 win over Levante in a city derby for a strong debut on Saturday, but he will need a major effort to topple an Atletico side that has only lost once in all competitions this season.

Pizzi, however, said his team is prepared to surprise Atletico.

"Even more so when you consider that a two-leg series is different from a longer competition (like the league)," Pizzi said. "Any team can be competitive for one game. We consider Atletico to be a good team, but we have our options and want the Copa."



Pedro Rodriguez scored a hat trick two weeks ago to erase a two-goal deficit at Alfonso Perez Coliseum and spark a 5-2 win for Barcelona.

The in-form forward will probably have another chance to take aim at Getafe on Wednesday when the Madrid-based club comes to town.

With Lionel Messi out since November with a torn left hamstring, Pedro's latest goal in a 4-0 win over Elche on Sunday gave him one more than the Argentina star to lead the team this season with 15 goals in all competitions.

Barcelona coach Gerard Martino said Messi is fit but gave no indication if he will play on Wednesday. If not, Pedro and Alexis Sanchez will likely be asked to play up front again.

"I think the game against Getafe won't be like the one we played in the league," Pedro said. "It will be tough."



Madrid hosts Osasuna on Thursday when last season's runner-up will look to get a convincing win at the Santiago Bernabeu before it returns to Pamplona, where the powerhouse always has a difficult time winning.

Osasuna outplayed Madrid on Dec. 14 in the league when it opened up a two-goal lead before Madrid salvaged a 2-2 draw.

On that day, Madrid forward Gareth Bale was substituted after halftime by coach Carlo Ancelotti and hasn't played since due to a left leg knock. He is back on Madrid's squad for Monday's league match at Celta Vigo but Ancelotti said he wasn't sure if the Welshman would play.



Only two lower-division sides survived the entrance of the topflight clubs in the round of 32.

Alcorcon, which plays in the second division, hosts Espanyol on Wednesday, while third-tier club Racing Santander hosts Almeria.

Alcorcon leapt from obscurity in 2009 when it dealt Madrid a 4-0 thrashing in the Copa. In the last round, the modest club advanced after winning 2-0 at topflight Granada.

Racing pulled off an even bigger upset when it won 2-0 at Sevilla.

The other matches are: Real Betis vs. Athletic Bilbao; Real Sociedad vs. Villarreal; and Rayo Vallecano vs. Levante.

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