Barcelona Copa del Rey odds: Can third-tier minnows claim another scalp?

Barcelona return to Spain after a heavy defeat in El Clasico in Saudi Arabia and they have a real banana skin Copa del Rey tie this week. Unionistas provide the opposition with the third tier side having stunned top flight Villarreal on penalties in the last round, in a tie that was completed a day late after floodlight issues in Salamanca. Let’s take a look at the Barcelona Copa del Rey odds ahead of Thursday’s game.

What are the current Barcelona Copa del Rey odds?

Heading into the Last 16 ties that take place this week, Barcelona are the joint 3/1 favourites along with Real Madrid to go on and win the competition. Some bookies even have them priced shorter than Los Blancos which may be a surprise to some given how dominant Real Madrid were in the Supercopa at the weekend and how much more convincing they’ve been this season.

However that’s largely a reflection of Real Madrid facing a tough derby trip to Atletico Madrid on Thursday while Barcelona have been paired with the lowest ranked side left in the competition.

This trophy doesn’t always end up in the hands of the big two La Liga clubs though. There have been five different winners in the last five years with Real Betis, Real Sociedad and Valencia also winning the Copa del Rey during that period.

As for this year’s competition, Atletico are third favourites at 8/1, odds that will tumble should they emerge victorious from the derby while current league leaders Girona are 12/1. Of the slightly longer shots, in-form Athletic Club, who’ve made the Semi-Finals in each of the last four years, are available at a very tempting 20/1.

Barcelona Copa del Rey odds
Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring against Real Madrid – Photo by Icon Sport

Will Barcelona win their tie?

While Real Madrid have been on the wrong end of some embarrassing Copa del Rey upsets against lower league teams over the past couple of decades, Barcelona have largely steered clear of shock defeats in these kinds of fixtures, although they’ve had some close shaves.

Since the Copa del Rey format was radically changed in 2019 with two-legged ties replaced with one-off matches before the Semi-Final stage, Barcelona have played lower league opposition on seven occasions.

As per the rules of the draw, all those games were away and they won the lot, although Extra Time was required in 2021 against third tier neighbours Cornella and in 2023 against Intercity, also of the third tier. 

They were pushed quite hard by fourth tier Barbastro in the last round this year, although the result was never really in doubt with Barca emerging 3-2 winners despite conceding a couple of Second Half goals.

You have to go back twenty years to find the last time Barcelona were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by a lower league team. That was the 2004/05 season when a Barca side which included a young Leo Messi suffered a shock 1-0 defeat against Catalan minnows UDA Gramenet who were in the third tier at the time but have since sunk to much greater depths.

Barcelona Copa del Rey odds - 2023/24
Barcelona beat 4th tier Barbastro 3-2 in the last round – Photo by Icon Sport

How far can Unionistas go?

Realistically, this should be the end of the road for Unionistas. They’ve done brilliantly to get this far, seeing off Segunda Division Sporting Gijon 2-0 before a 7-6 shootout win against Villarreal in a game that ended 1-1.

Villarreal are having a pretty miserable season though with big defensive issues and despite Barcelona’s current struggles, the Catalan side will still represent a major step up in class.

Unionistas do have a fair amount of cup pedigree though despite being formed as a fan-owned club only a decade ago after the dissolution of UD Salamanca. There is much to like about their model and they hosted Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey as recently as 2020, losing 3-1 at the Last 32 stage having defeated Deportivo de La Coruña in the previous round.

There have been cases of even lower ranked teams knocking out opposition from La Liga this season which should give them hope. Cadiz lost to fourth tier Arandina 2-1 inside 90 minutes in Round 2 while Almeria were also sent packing by fourth tier Barbastro.

The last third tier side to win against top flight opponents in 90 minutes was Ceuta who beat Elche 1-0 last season in Round 3. They hosted Barcelona in the next round and lost 5-0.

Gareth Bale vs Unionistas
Gareth Bale in action for Real Madrid against Unionistas in the Copa del Rey in 2020 – Photo by Icon Sport

Mark is a freelance football writer based in Madrid. He regularly attends and covers La Liga matches around Spain, whilst also following football across Europe.