Barcelona, Bayern Munich, And Manchester City: Who Is On Track For Domestic Cup Success In Europe's Biggest Leagues?
Whilst the race for the domestic titles has been taking precedent in the approach for the final sprint, respective cup competitions can certainly still deliver their own thrills and spills this season.
The Sportsman provides the progress of the tournaments in all of the top ranking football nations in Europe. We take a look at the premier cup competition in the top eight of UEFA’s current ranking;
Over in Spain there’s the Copa del Rey, Italy has the prestigious Coppa Italia, there’s the Coupe de France which has finally been whittled down to the final two and Germany provides the DFB Pokal.
We’ve even chucked in what’s going on in Russia and Portugal, ranked seventh and eighth in that UEFA classification, respectively, as their own individual competitions gear up to the final hurdle.
Of course, if you needed reminding, there’s also the world’s oldest national competition; the FA Cup.
The tournaments have been presented in order of their country’s ranking, with the dates and locations where the next round or final will take place.
Spain: Copa del Rey
(Barcelona v Valencia)
Barcelona hold the record for most wins in the competition (30) and have won the last five tournaments consecutively. The Blaugrana can look to make it six (!) in a row - after emphatically seen off fierce rivals Real Madrid in the semi-finals - and continue their quest for the continental treble when they take on Valencia in the final at the Benito Villamarin Stadium in Seville on 25th May.
Valencia, under coach Marcelino, are looking for their first cup win since 2009, and have won the Copa del Rey at least once in six of the last seven decades.
England: FA Cup
(Manchester City v Brighton & Hove Albion, Watford v Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Despite the billions pumped into the club by Sheikh Mansour and the Abu Dhabi United Group, Manchester City have just one FA Cup to their name in the oil-era, having broken their agonizingly long four-decade wait for a trophy with their win at Wembley in 2011.
Since then there was embarrassment by a relegation-destined Wigan Athletic two years later, with the Latics also stopping them in their tracks last season (1-0, Will Griggs, up the Tics, COME ON!)
Pep Guardiola’s side are on for the quadruple, with Brighton & Hove Albion their next opponents having defeated Championship and League Two opposition Rotherham, Newport County and Swansea City, as well as Premier League relegation battlers Burnley in the previous rounds.
In the other semi-final, to also take place at Wembley, there’s the tasty match-up between Watford and Wolverhampton Wanderers, who have both exceeded league expectations this season, striving to get to that Final on May 18th.
Italy: Coppa Italia
(Lazio 0-0 Milan, Fiorentina 3-3 Atalanta)
An exceptional Quarter-Finals had a bit of everything. Runaway Serie A leaders Juventus were stunned by Atalanta, and Roma capitulated to Fiorentina who banged another nail in giallorossi manager Eusebio di Francesco’s coffin.
AC Milan beat former manager Carlo Ancelotti and Napoli and now face a Lazio side who needed to take the rossoneri’s San Siro sharers Internazionale to penalties in the previous round.
A whole two months exists between the first and second-legs, with each first leg has ended in a draw. The second legs are due to be [played on the 24th and 25th April, with Lazio in particular hoping to get to the final on 15th May, which will be held at their home ground of the Stadio Olimpico in the capital.
Germany: DFB Pokal
(Werder Bremen, Hamburger SV, RB Leipzig, Bayern Munich)
We’ve got to wait a few days for the semi-final draw, but at least we know who’s in the pot. Last year’s defeated finalists and all-time record holders Bayern Munich survived a scare to 2. Bundesliga side FC Heidenheim to see out a bruising 5-4 win at the Allianz Arena.
Fellow Bundesliga sides Werder Bremen and RB Leipzig, and second-tier promotion hopefuls Hamburg are also in the mix. The semi-finals will feature over the 23rd and 24th of April, with the final will take place at the Olympiastadion on 25th May.
France: Coupe de France
(Rennes v Paris Saint-Germain)
The Coupe de France could solidly lay claim to being the best national cup competition in the world, with inclusion of football clubs from around the world positioned in all French territories.
Ultimately, however, the winners - or winner - in recent seasons has been a tad predictable (and no team outside the top tier has won the trophy in 60 years), with Paris Saint-Germain on course for their fifth in succession.
Thomas Tuchel can christen his reign as manager with his first trophy (we’re disregarding the Trophée des Champions) on 27th April. Les Parisiens take on Rennes, who beat a lacklustre Lyon side in the semi-finals.
Don’t worry that you’ve missed almost the entirety of this season’s competition; the qualifiers for next season’s trophy have already started!
Russia: Olimp Russian Cup (Кубок России)
(Lokomotiv Moscow v Rostov, Ural Yekaterinburg v Arsenal Tula)
Last year the Russian Cup was won for the first time by Saint Petersburg-based club FC Tosno who beat Avangard Kursk in the final at Volgograd Arena. Their joy was short-lived however, with Tosno having to dissolve shortly afterwards. This year it’s all Premier League teams making the final four; Lokomotiv Moscow gearing up for their second-leg against Rostov, whilst Ural Yekaterinburg bring a one away goal advantage over Arsenal Tula back home for their second legs on 15th May, with the final due to be played one week later.
Portugal: Taça de Portugal
(Sporting CP v Porto)
Sporting CP are looking to make up for the disappointment of last year’s defeat to Aves, but had to do it the hard way on away goals over Benfica. The verde e brancos are in a repeat of the 2008 finals against Porto, but will be buoyed by the result gained on that occasion a decade ago, under manager Paulo Bento. Whoever wins this particular match will overtake the other for most wins in the tournament. Both Sporting and Porto are currently rested on 16 apiece. The final takes place on 26th May at the Estádio de Honra in Lisbon.