Segunda Division side Cordoba made some noise in the last round of the Copa last month when they caused the competition’s first major upset by ending Real Sociedad’s run with a 4-2 aggregate victory. They were rewarded with a clash against holders Barcelona in the Round of 16 for their efforts, but perhaps the players may have wished for easier opposition at this stage given Lionel Messi’s record-breaking form.
It was at this stage last year when Los Califas tumbled out of the Copa, losing to Barcelona-based Espanyol, and Rafael Berges’ men will likely endure a similar fate when they welcome Tito Vilanova’s side to the Estadio Nuevo Arcangel on Wednesday night for the first-leg.
Form has been rough of late for the Andalusians as they have drawn their last three competitive fixtures. Sunday’s 1-1 home draw against Sporting Gijon was less than perfect as they threw away three points with seven minutes to go, ending the game with 10 men after midfielder Pedro had opened the scoring in the first half.
Despite the daunting task ahead of them, Cordoba will likely take some respite as Barcelona are expected to rest several first team stars for the first-leg Copa clash as they will be playing Atletico Madrid in La Liga on Sunday.
Nevertheless, the minnows will be bracing themselves. Berges’ men have never tasted Copa success, while Barcelona have won the competition 26 times, making them the most successful side in history to lift the trophy.
Cordoba’s game also falls just days after Messi broke Gerd Muller’s record for the most goals scored in a calendar year with 86 strikes for club and country in 2012. Messi did that in 66 matches played, goals 85 and 86 came in the 2-1 win over Betis on Sunday night and he will be looking to add to his tally if he gets the nod from Vilanova.
It’s impossible and unfair to compare both teams. According to Sporting Intelligence, Barcelona players are the highest paid in the world of football, while Cordoba don’t appear on the list.
But, regardless of the gulf in size of the clubs, there are connections between them. Cordoba were coached by former Barcelona legend Laszlo Kubala in the late 1960s if only for a brief spell. Kubala was gone by the time Los Califas returned to top-flight action in 1971.
Since then Cordoba have struggled to move away from the lower leagues of Spanish football, and they are currently sitting mid-table in the Segunda Division. Will they beat Barcelona? They already have, a 2-1 win over Barcelona’s B team in the league back in October.
Gerard Deulofeu played for the Blaugrana’s second team in that game, and he could be called back to feature in Wednesday’s clash after impressing Vilanova during the brief spells he has enjoyed in the first team so far this term.
Expect it to be a one-sided affair. Cordoba have had their moment against Real Sociedad, now it’s time to roll over.