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The way the Copa del Rey is setup, there really isn't much of an excuse for the big boys from La Liga to go on deep runs in the tournament. This is a tournament that is played with home-and-home fixtures, giving the superior team 180 minutes rather than the usual 90 to put away weaker sides.
But the magic of cups isn't always like that, and there are teams that rise up from the ashes from time to time to put on some ridiculous shows.
Take Celta Vigo, as an example. Last year at this time, Celta Vigo was polishing off an upset of Valencia in the Round of 16 of the Copa del Rey. Had the Celts ultimately been knocked out at that point, the tournament would have been considered a smashing success.
Instead, Celta Vigo had one more trick up its sleeve, dismissing Real Madrid in the quarterfinals to cap off a second straight improbable run into the Copa del Rey semifinals.
Amazingly, Celta Vigo is up to its tricks again. In a match played at Balaidos last week, Celta Vigo picked up a 1-1 draw against mighty Barcelona.
The likelihood Celta Vigo survives is thin, but at least the club is still kicking heading back to the Nou Camp. We know that the Catalans will be far more concerned about the upcoming Champions League matches in the next couple weeks, and looking past the Copa del Rey would be easy to do. Still, to avoid embarrassment, Barca had better show up this week, or they're going to be the next team to feel the wrath of Celta Vigo.
The rest of the top La Liga sides are in pretty good shape heading into the second leg of the last 16. Real Madrid was a 3-0 winner at Numancia last week while Atletico Madrid took care of business against Lleida Esportiu by a 4-0 count on the road and has effectively punched its ticket into the last eight of the competition.
Villarreal and Valencia could be in a bit of trouble still.
Villarreal is having a fine season at 8-4-6 in La Liga, but its Copa del Rey campaign is in peril. It was beaten by relegation-stricken Leganes 1-0 on the road, and now, it will need to win and do so by more than one goal to advance.
Similar could be said for Valencia. Success and failure isn't measured by the Copa del Rey for Valencia, but a third-place start to the season that sees the team in front of Real Madrid near the halfway point of the campaign could be spoiled if the team was knocked out of this tournament by Las Palmas, another team sitting towards the bottom of the table in La Liga.
Even though Real Madrid has had a tough season and is clearly out of the running in La Liga, it is the favorite to win the Copa del Rey. Los Blancos are already through to the last eight for sure, and they're +150 choices to capture this tournament for the 20th time.
Barcelona is the three-time defending champion of this event and should not be counted out. The Catalan side is still definitively favored to get through this match, but with its attentions turned several other places, it's only +175 to capture this tourney.
Atletico Madrid +700, Valencia +1200 and Sevilla +1200 round out the rest of the favorites to win the Copa del Rey.
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