Injury-hit Barcelona will
not be complaining if another 'lucky' black cat helps Lionel
Messi find the net at the Nou Camp on Wednesday when they bid
for a third King's Cup final appearance in four years.
The world and European champions host Valencia in a
semi-final second leg match with Carles Puyol's
header from the 1-1 draw at Mestalla last week giving them a
slight edge in the tie.
Barca's anxious 2-1 home win over Real Sociedad in La Liga
at the weekend ended a run of three consecutive draws, their
worst run of results this season, and a rare barren spell for
top scorer Messi.
It was only after a black cat streaked across their pitch on
Saturday that Messi finally broke his run of bad luck in front
of goal, which included having a penalty saved during the first
leg of the semi-final.
The World Player of the Year has netted 37 times in all
competitions so far, but his team have looked more and more
reliant on his goals and playmaking as a lengthening injury list
took its toll.
David Villa, Pedro, Andres Iniesta and Alexis Sanchez have
all been laid low, forcing coach Pep Guardiola to fall back on
their famed youth academy of late, but the zip has been missing
from the side's play.
A nasty gash to the knee of midfielder Sergio Busquets on
the weekend makes the Spanish international a doubt for
Wednesday as well.
"We'll see if, little by little, we can start getting
players back," Guardiola said on Saturday, when he rested other
key players such as Xavi, Gerard Pique and Eric Abidal.
"The players we have available are making a titanic effort,
and they have a chance on Wednesday to secure a place in the
final for later in the season, while we turn our focus on the
other two competitions [La Liga and the Champions League].
Barca won the cup in 2009, and lost in last season's final
to their arch rivals Real Madrid, who they trail in the league
by seven points.
Valencia are a distant third in the standings and also going
through a poor run of form.
Unai Emery's side, cup winners in 2008, were held 0-0 at
Atletico Madrid on Sunday. Aside from cup games they have yet to
win in 2012.
Third-tier giantkillers Mirandes face a big cat problem in
the other semi on Tuesday when they travel to the
intimidating San Mames to play Athletic Bilbao, known as The
Bilbao, sixth in La Liga, can look to powerful Spain striker
Fernando Llorente, who has returned from injury scoring six
times in three games. He netted both goals in their 2-1 first
leg win in Miranda de Ebro last week.
Mirandes, who have an annual budget of just over 1.2 million
euros compared to the 60 million euros or so at Bilbao's
disposal, grabbed a lifeline with Ander Lambarri's injury-time
They are only the second club from the Segunda B to have
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