REAL MADRID JOIN BARCELONA IN COPA DEL REY EXIT

REAL MADRID JOIN BARCELONA IN COPA DEL REY EXIT

Barcelona and Real Madrid both crashed out of the Spanish King’s Cup on Thursday night, as Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad pulled off a shock Basque double to reach the semi-finals.

Barca were beaten 1-0 at Bilbao’s San Mames, where Inaki Williams scored a dramatic 93rd-minute winner, after Sociedad had upstaged hosts Real 4-3 in a thriller at the Santiago Bernabeu.

For the first time since 2010, the final will feature neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid.

An unfamiliar final four will see Bilbao take on Granada and Sociedad face second-tier Mirandes.

For Barca, it was a double whammy on and off the pitch in a turbulent week after captain Lionel Messi was embroiled in a public spat with the club’s sporting director Eric Abidal while Ousmane Dembele was ruled out with another hamstring tear.

To make matters worse, Gerard Pique hobbled off in the second half and is doubtful to face Real Betis in La Liga tomorrow.

Barcelona are in political turmoil after Messi slammed Abidal, who suggested that coach Ernesto Valverde was sacked last month owing to the players’ lack of effort.

And the fear is the Argentinian star could even leave in the summer by activating a clause in his contract that allows him to walk away for free.

Defeat by Bilbao adds to the sense of a club in a state of crisis.

Quique Setien has now lost two of his opening six games in charge, with a Champions League tie against Napoli on Feb 25 fast approaching.

Barca defender Pique said the team needed to show unity and refrain from infighting, adding that the performance, if not the result, proved that they had moved on from the saga.

“Now is not the time to air our dirty laundry,” he said. “All I can say is we have 100 per cent confidence in ourselves and are pleased with how we played and how we have reacted in the face of all this noise.”

Setien said he was hurt by the elimination but was pleased with the display.

“Today everything went well, apart from the result,” he said.

“We took a step forward in our play and I’m pleased with many things we did. I’m not only looking at the result.”

For a rotated Real side, who sit top of La Liga, the loss against Sociedad was perhaps less damaging, even if they conceded as many goals in 69 minutes as they had in their last 11 matches.

Martin Odegaard, on loan at Sociedad but allowed to face his parent club, scored the opener before Alexander Isak hit two to give Sociedad a remarkable 3-0 lead.

Marcelo and Rodrygo scored late in the second half and while Mikel Merino added a fourth for the visitors, a Nacho Fernandez header set up a wild final three minutes.

“It hurts, we have to be honest, nobody likes a defeat,” said Real coach Zinedine Zidane.

-AFP

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