In a way, it isn’t entirely fair.
Of course FC Barcelona came back from its 2-0 aggregate deficit to Sevilla in the second leg of the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey. Of course it rammed four goals past the team currently placed fourth in La Liga within an hour. Of course the 6-1 victory kept alive its campaign to win a record fifth straight Copa, potentially setting yet another first in this paradigm-shifting decade for the Catalans.
Sevilla had a spate of injuries, including to key men like winger Jesus Navas. Barca had some injuries as well, but it’s Barca and so it doesn’t entirely matter. A week before Thursday’s rout, the accounting firm Deloitte had released its annual Football Money League, ranking the richest soccer teams by their revenue over the previous season.
Barca placed second, behind Real Madrid, at $792 million. Sevilla placed 27th at $189 million. That made the latter Spain’s fourth-best performing club, financially, and it represented a strong economic showing for the Andalusians.
Yet there’s no diminishing the gap. Barca had out-earned Sevilla by more than 4-to-1.
It did two better in the score line.
Just 12 minutes in, Lionel Messi won a penalty. In the box, he kicked his left leg back into Quincy Promes, who was running behind him. They made the slightest of contact. Messi kicked the ground, went down and cried for a penalty. He got one. As if Barca needed the help.
Philippe Coutinho struck it home with a precise kick.
At the other end, Promes made a mesmeric move to set up Andre Silva, whose finish was saved impressively by Jasper Cillessen – in likely his final game as Barca’s backup goalkeeper before he joins Arsenal.
And then Gerard Pique pushed over Roque Mesa in Barca’s box. But Cillessen parried Ever Banega’s poorly placed penalty kick, sparing the Catalans a complicating away goal. As if Barca needed the help.
After half an hour, Arthur unsheathed a visionary slide-rule through-ball for Ivan Rakitic, requiring only a grazed toe from the Croatian to redirect it past Juan Soriano and into the net.
— صـقـر أهـداف S8R (@S8R_HD142) January 30, 2019
From there, it seemed a matter of time before Barca got its winner. And in a two-minute burst after the break, the home team put the tie away. First, Luis Suarez clipped in a short cross for Coutinho, whose header beat Soriano for his second goal.
And then Sergi Roberto launched Messi, streaked onto the deft return pass in the box and stuck it home.
Sure, Guilherme Arana tightened up the score with a sensational smash from the edge of the box, following a bad Cillessen turnover.
But Barca was much closer to a fifth tally – Messi and Roberto wasted fat chances – than Sevilla ever got to the goal that would have sent them through.
And late on, Barca pinged the ball around on a lightning-quick break instigated by Messi, until Jordi Alba found Suarez at the far post for a tap-in.
With Sevilla soundly defeated and deflated, Messi dinked in another from close range in injury time on a clever attack to make things a little uglier still for the visitors.
It was easy. It was convincing. It was undramatic.
So deep is Barca, so deep are its pockets, that it could afford to play a squad of reserves in each of the first legs throughout this Copa del Rey. It’s been an astounding thing to witness.
In the round of 32, Barca’s backups didn’t get a winner in the first leg over Cultural Leonesa of the Segunda Division B – the third tier in the Spanish pyramid – until deep in injury time. But then they rolled over the minnows 4-1 in the home match, without ever having to bother the regulars.
In the round of 16 and fielding a squad made up largely of youth players, Barca lost to Levante 2-1. No matter. The starters set things right, 3-0.
And in this round, it wasn’t terribly consequential that most of the stars were rested in the first contest, either.
Barca can afford to take these sorts of liberties, to gamble with a first game because it knows full well that there is hardly any score it can’t undo if it really needs to. Because Barca can afford most anything.
In a way, it isn’t entirely fair.
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist and a sports communication lecturer at Marist College. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.
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