Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman said the club must be realistic about their title chances in LaLiga.

Koeman's Barca are second and five points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a match in hand, through 25 rounds ahead of Saturday's trip to Osasuna.

Barca – into next month's Copa del Rey final as they look to overturn a 4-1 deficit against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16 – have struggled to convince this season.

While Koeman played down talk of the title, the Dutchman knows Barca have a chance to end the season on a high in the Copa final against Athletic Bilbao on April 17.

"As the coach and the players we have to be more realistic," Koeman told reporters. "We cannot change our minds and opinions about the team's chances to win something all the time.

"We know we have the [Copa del Rey] final and have a chance to win a big trophy in Spain. And depending on the results of the team we can fight for the title.

"We're several points behind Atletico Madrid and we can't lose any more points because then our objective will change and that's difficult.

"Hopefully at the end of the season we can say that, despite some problems, we have done well and that we have won a title. And that would be great."

Barcelona are undefeated in their last 15 games in LaLiga (W12 D3) – the second best current run of any team in the top five European leagues, only behind Premier League leaders Manchester City (19).

Lionel Messi has scored 19 goals in 23 LaLiga appearances this season and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner could reach 20 goals in a 13th consecutive campaign in the competition – a record.

Barca captain Messi has scored 23 goals in 19 LaLiga appearances against Osasuna, netting three braces in his last five games against them at El Sadar in the league.

Marcelino lauded Athletic Bilbao, who will contest two Copa del Rey finals within a fortnight after overcoming Levante on Thursday.

Athletic saw off Levante 2-1 in extra time and 3-2 on aggregate to set up a showdown with LaLiga giants Barcelona in the Copa del Rey decider next month.

Supercopa de Espana champions after upstaging Barca in January, Athletic reached last season's Copa final but, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, they are yet to play it – the match against their rivals Real Sociedad set for April 3.

Athletic are now gearing up for two finals in the space of 14 days next month, with a clash against Barca scheduled for April 17.

"These players have made Athletic Club history and sometimes that only happens once in a lifetime," Athletic head coach Marcelino said.

"They had to make the most of the moment and they did so."

Alex Berenguer's deflected, extra-time winner sealed Athletic's progress to back-to-back finals and saw them equal Real Madrid on 39 appearances in Copa del Rey deciders.

It completed a turnaround for the 23-time Copa winners, with Raul Garcia's penalty having cancelled out Roger Marti's opener.

"We are going to take it step by step and enjoy today at least," Raul Garcia added.

"I am very happy because of all the work behind this and hopefully it will be a historic year.

"It's an honour to fight alongside this group of friends.

"We have a lot of confidence in each other, always help each other and that's what is giving us the results."

Athletic and Barca will play their ninth Copa final – the most-contested fixture in the competition's history.

In fact, Athletic will become in the first team to play two Copa del Rey deciders in the same month.

Athletic Bilbao made it three finals in the space of a year as they saw off Levante 2-1 in extra time on the night and 3-2 on aggregate to set up a Copa del Rey showdown with Barcelona.

Supercopa de Espana champions Athletic reached last season's Copa final but, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, they are yet to play it – the match against their rivals Real Sociedad is set for April 3.

In a bizarre turn of events, Athletic will be playing both finals in the space of two weeks, with Alex Berenguer's deflected, extra-time winner sealing their progress and seeing them equal Real Madrid on 39 appearances in Copa del Rey finals.

It completed a turnaround for the 23-time Copa winners, with Raul Garcia's penalty having cancelled out Roger Marti's opener.

Athletic started brightly, yet it was the hosts who struck first – Marti sweeping a neat, on-the-spin finish beyond Unai Simon.

Iker Muniain should have hit back seven minutes later only to head wide from Oscar de Marcos' precise cross.

Athletic had their equaliser, and a vital away goal, on the half-hour, though, with Raul Garcia slamming in from the spot after he had been felled by Oscar Duarte.

Jorge de Frutos prodded wide from a decent chance to restore Levante's lead before Yeray Alvarez turned Jorge Miramon's cross against the foot of Athletic's post.

Raul Garcia turned provider 20 minutes after the restart, presenting Inaki Williams with his first opening, only for Athletic's forward to slice his effort.

Muniain slipped at a crucial moment after wriggling his way to the six-yard box before Berenguer's improvised header looped wide.

Levante went closest in the first half of extra-time – Simon sensationally keeping out Enis Bardhi's free-kick.

Yet it was Athletic who finally settled the contest. Berenguer tried his luck from range, his effort taking a huge deflection off Nikola Vukcevic and clipping in off the woodwork to send the visitors through.

Barcelona are set to be without Gerard Pique once again after the club confirmed he suffered a knee ligament injury shortly after his Copa del Rey heroics against Sevilla. 

Pique's stoppage-time header after the 90-minute mark in Wednesday's semi-final second leg saw Barca wipe out Sevilla's 2-0 lead from the first meeting last month, with Ousmane Dembele having struck early on. 

Barca went on to win 3-0 after extra time, Martin Braithwaite getting the decisive goal five minutes after the restart to leave Sevilla – who had Fernando set off just before Pique's header – on the receiving end of a commendable comeback. 

But it seemingly came at a cost, with Pique appearing to hurt his knee in extra time when he was forced into an awkward turn while passing back to Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who had earlier saved a penalty from Lucas Ocampos when the score was 1-0.

Pique went down holding his knee only to eventually see out the game, suggesting the issue was not a particularly serious one. 

But Barca confirmed on Thursday that further examinations have revealed a sprain to the internal lateral ligament in his right knee. 

While the club said the length of his absence will be dependent on his recovery, such sprains can mean a six-week absence. 

That could potentially rule him out of El Clasico on April 10, while it seems a strong possibility Pique will miss the second leg of Barca's Champions League last-16 tie away to Paris Saint-Germain next week. 

PSG hold a 4-1 advantage from the first leg at Camp Nou on February 16, the match in which Pique returned from a previous knee injury sustained in November.

 

Ronald Koeman cooled talk of Barcelona replicating their astonishing Copa del Rey comeback when they face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

Barca overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit as they stunned Sevilla 3-0 after extra time at Camp Nou on Wednesday to reach the Copa del Rey final.

Ousmane Dembele gave Barca hope with a first-half goal and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen provided more life when he saved Lucas Ocampos' penalty 17 minutes from the end.

Gerard Pique capitalised in stoppage time, doubling Barca's lead on the night and levelling the semi-final tie 2-2 on aggregate, moments after Sevilla's Fernando was sent off.

Martin Braithwaite then put Barca ahead early in extra time as the LaLiga giants moved through to face Athletic Bilbao or Levante in the decider.

Barca will also have to come from behind on March 10 if they are to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals, with Koeman's side trailing Ligue 1 holders PSG 4-1 following the opening leg on home soil.

Speaking to reporters post-match, Barca head coach Koeman said: "2-0 it is easier for a comeback, even though it isn't easy, but 4-1 is still something else.

"And they have a great team with great players and as in any match, we start the game to win and during the game we are going to see if there is a chance to go ahead.

"If not, we will have to accept it and keep going in the same way."

Barca have struggled for form and consistency during Koeman's first season at the helm – the Spanish powerhouse five points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a match in hand.

Koeman's Barca also lost to Athletic in the Supercopa de Espana final this season.

"It is true [that this was his happiest night as Barça coach in which he felt more proud of his footballers]," Koeman said.

"It is a strong step towards wining an important title. Also, with a 2-0 against as we had to make a very complete game. As a coach, you cannot ask for anything more. We have fought, we have created, we have played and make it till the last second from a psychical point of view.

"I trust that we deserved to go ahead and now to play the final because we were the better team in both matches."

Ronald Koeman was full of admiration for the mentality of his Barcelona players after they produced an "incredible" comeback to advance to the Copa del Rey final with a 3-0 win over Sevilla.

Barca started a dramatic second leg at Camp Nou on Wednesday with a two-goal deficit, but won the tie 3-2 on aggregate to set up a final against Athletic Bilbao or Levante.

The Catalan giants hit the headlines at the start of the week when ex-president Josep Maria Bartomeu was among those arrested on Monday – he was then provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business – as part of a police investigation into last year's 'Barcagate' scandal. 

There was no sign of any turmoil as Ousmane Dembele put Barca in front early on and Gerard Pique made it 2-2 with a last-gasp header to force extra time midweek.

Lucas Ocampos had missed a chance to level on the night when his penalty was saved by Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen with 17 minutes remaining and Sevilla had Fernando sent off before Pique struck.

Martin Braithwaite put Barca in front early in extra time and Luuk de Jong – who had been substituted – was shown a red card on the touchline for dissent after Sevilla were denied another penalty.

Barca head coach Koeman hailed the character shown by his side, who also beat Sevilla 2-0 in LaLiga on Saturday.

The former Netherlands boss said in quotes reported by Marca: "We always believed. We never gave up on the Copa. It's a question of mentality.

"I, as a coach, can't ask my team to do more than what I've seen tonight. We fought until extra time and it's incredible. I'm very happy with the team's work tonight.

"We deserved to go through. I think we were better over the two legs. We were the best team."

Koeman added in a week that will end with the Barca presidential election: "We managed to score three goals and could've scored more. You can't ask for more."

Barcelona produced a storming fightback to reach the Copa del Rey final thanks to a dramatic 3-0 victory over Sevilla after extra time at Camp Nou. 

The Catalan giants hit the headlines at the start of the week when president Josep Maria Bartomeu was among those arrested on Monday - he was then provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business - as part of a police investigation into last year's 'Barcagate' scandal. 

Barca's players looked anything but affected by off-field events, however, as they dominated the majority of the second leg, Ousmane Dembele giving them a richly deserved first-half lead. 

Lucas Ocampos had a penalty saved by Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen with 17 minutes to go and Gerard Pique made him pay by making it 2-2 on aggregate right at the end of stoppage time, moments after Sevilla had seen Fernando sent off. 

Martin Braithwaite put Barca in front early in extra time and Luuk de Jong - who had been substituted - was shown a red card for dissent after Sevilla were not awarded a penalty, with the hosts going through to face Athletic Bilbao or Levante in the final. 

Dembele opened the scoring in the 12th minute in a scintillating Barca start, showing excellent close control in the penalty area before drifting outside the box to find the top-right corner with a sublime right-footed finish from 20 yards out. 

The Blaugrana were causing Sevilla all sorts of problems with their slick passing and movement in a relentless first-half display, Marcos Acuna clearing a deflected shot from the brilliant Lionel Messi off the line. 

Barca were almost level when Jordi Alba's acrobatic volley rattled the crossbar and there was more drama when Ocampos' tame penalty was saved by Ter Stegen after the Sevilla player had been upended by Oscar Mingueza. 

Substitute Antoine Griezmann then produced the impact hoped for with time almost up, delivering an inviting cross for Pique to head home, this after Fernando was shown a second yellow card for upending Messi. 

Barca were in front for the first time in the tie four minutes into extra time, Braithwaite coming off the bench to nod in Alba's superb cross. 

Sevilla thought they had a second penalty for handball against Clement Lenglet but the VAR verdict ruled there was no intent, resulting in De Jong seeing red on a miserable night for the visitors.

It is not normally a mood he has to strive too hard to locate but, after Barcelona's restorative 2-0 win over Sevilla at the weekend, Gerard Pique was bullish.

On Wednesday, Ronald Koeman's side will seek to overturn the same deficit in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final against the Andalusian club.

The chastening 4-1 Champions League loss to Paris Saint-Germain, where Pique's return from three months out with a knee injury was entirely ruined by him having to try to mark Kylian Mbappe, left Barca's hopes of averting a second trophy-less season hanging by a thread.

But goals from Ousmane Dembele and Lionel Messi made it back-to-back LaLiga wins last time out, while there is the prospect of one or both of the Madrid clubs dropping points when they meet on Sunday.

"We've seen much worse things and the team, despite those two games, is one to believe in this year," Pique said.

"It's not an ideal situation, but I'm confident in the team. Everything is in our head. If we turn it around on Wednesday, the season changes completely."

Wind the pre-match build-up forward a few days and Barcelona's offices have been raided, their ex-president has been arrested, candidates for this weekend's presidential election are lambasting one another in public and Koeman is fielding questions about his future.

It's not an ideal situation.

Of course, this is the state of perma-chaos in which Barcelona reside nowadays. It is a state that persuaded Messi to try to force his exit from the club and it is a state within which they must now convince him to remain when the great man's contract expires in June.

Even more so than in the trophy-laden days that have dominated his record-breaking career, everything at Barca is shot through an unblinking Messi lens.

Take the dramatic off-field developments of recent days.

Josep Maria Bartomeu was the president who drove Messi to the brink of leaving. In fact, the superstar forward was only forced to stay because he claimed Bartomeu went back on a promise to let him walk away if he chose to do so at the end of 2019-20 – a season that, of course, concluded with that implausible 8-2 humiliation against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Bartomeu's arrest by Catalan police to face charges of unfair administration and corruption of business was reportedly related to the "Barcagate" scandal, when social media company 13 Ventures were allegedly paid to smear club greats, including Messi. Pricewaterhouse Coopers were commissioned by Bartomeu to investigate the matter and found in Barca's favour.

Joan Laporta, president during those glory years when Messi blossomed under Guardiola, is favourite to be elected for a return to the top job. On Tuesday, he debated opponents Victor Font and Toni Freixa, and Messi was obviously on the agenda.

Laporta believes he is the only candidate who can "ensure" a Messi stay, boasting of "a great relationship with Leo" and using this as a point of difference between himself and Bartomeu ally Freixa.

Font believes he has the best proposition for Messi, namely bring back his old team-mate as head coach. Which is a lovely idea, if not a lovely subject for Koeman to address a couple of hours later at his news conference to preview a potentially season-defining game.

Maybe this is why Messi continues to hold his cards close to his chest. So long as only he knows his intentions over his future, he is in control. Soon enough it will become a matter of public debate, blame, recriminations and conspiracy.

The other thing he still controls masterfully is events on the field.

Much of the talk around Messi's future increasingly centres on his age. Next season he'll be 34. Would he enhance the destructive power of the PSG forward line that wrought such havoc at Camp Nou? Do City need another twinkle-toed creator sauntering in off the right flank?

To dismiss Messi as being over-the-hill, as some would have you believe, needs a little evidence to back it up. He has been most unhelpful in that regard.

In 2021, no player in Europe's top five leagues has more than his 14 goals (level with Robert Lewandowski) across all competitions.

Messi rounded off an all-action showing against Sevilla on Saturday with his 30th goal against them in LaLiga. He has never scored more often against a single opponent.

He supplied the assist for Dembele and completed 41 of 45 passes in the opposition half (91.1 per cent). Additionally, the Argentina international has attempted 100 dribbles this season – putting him second to Adama Traore in the top five leagues.

"What he wants is to win again," Laporta said, before casting himself ambitiously at the heart of this story. "If I don't win, I'm sure Leo won't continue at Barca."

It is hard to imagine Messi pouring over Sunday's election results with any great concern. He feels like a man on a mission and in the mood as events clatter on ominously all around him. On the pitch he remains in charge, about the only guarantee an embattled Barcelona have left.

Ronald Koeman insists he was not sending a message to Antoine Griezmann by leaving the misfiring forward on the bench for Barcelona's 2-0 victory over Sevilla.

Griezmann has gone six games without a goal in all competitions and was named among the Barca substitutes for the second match running on Saturday.

Unlike in the 3-0 win over Elche in midweek, the France international was not brought on as Koeman instead turned to Martin Braithwaite with the game poised at 1-0.

Explaining his decision to bring on Braithwaite instead of Griezmann for the final eight minutes, Koeman said: "It's not a message, no. 

"We decided to change the system and, to be able to get in behind, we put Dembele up top. 

"With the first goal, we said that we needed someone quicker than Griezmann on [Lionel] Messi's side. It's not a punishment."

Dembele opened the scoring just short of the half-hour mark at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan and Messi sealed the victory with his 30th goal against Sevilla in LaLiga - his best return against any opponent.

Barca's win was their ninth in 10 LaLiga outings and leaves them two points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a couple of games in hand.

The Catalan giants face Sevilla again on Wednesday at Camp Nou, where they will be looking to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final tie.

And after overcoming the Europa League winners in the league, Koeman is hopeful of a repeat scoreline when the teams reconvene in Catalonia.

"Of course we believe," he said. "That's our mentality, but Wednesday's game will be different because they will analyse the mistakes they made. 

"But yes, of course, we have a chance. I don't want to give more importance to the Copa game. We have to win and we have to fight. We will try to stay in all competitions until the end."

The victory may have come at a cost for Barcelona, however, as Gerard Pique and replacement Ronald Araujo - only just back from an ankle injury - both sustained knocks.

Pedri also left the field in the final 20 minutes after injuring his leg and will be assessed on Sunday, with all three players now doubtful for the cup tie against Sevilla.

"We have to wait and see about the injuries, we still don't know," Koeman said. 

"But despite the changes we had to make we kept the same rhythm because we have a deep squad that doesn't get annoyed [when not playing]."

Gerard Pique believes Barcelona have the opportunity to turn their entire season around by knocking Sevilla out of the Copa del Rey having beaten the same side in LaLiga on Saturday.

The first part of a huge double-header went Barca's way in a 2-0 away triumph as Ousmane Dembele and Lionel Messi scored to take Ronald Koeman's men to second.

The Blaugrana are now only two points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid, albeit having played two games more, and have their confidence renewed heading into Wednesday's home Copa semi-final second leg against Sevilla, where they must overturn a two-goal deficit.

A 2-0 defeat in the first leg earlier in February had contributed to a downbeat mood at Camp Nou, combined with a humbling Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain and a modest league position.

But Barca stalwart Pique is now feeling positive, even though Pedri and the returning Ronald Araujo appeared to suffer injuries.

He explained: "There is a league [title race]. We have seen much worse things. We are not in a perfect situation, but there is confidence. We hope we can do something.

"Everything is in the head. During my time at Barca, we have had many moments of these injuries, but if the team is good in the head, it does not matter who plays. It is a matter of having team spirit.

"If we turn it around in the tie on Wednesday, the season changes completely.

"It's a matter of looking for that life that allows us to fight for titles until the end, which is what Barca are asked to do."

After the Copa first leg kickstarted a run of one win in four for Barca, they have enjoyed back-to-back victories and were good value for Saturday's success, Koeman's first against Sevilla in his coaching career.

Sevilla did not muster a single first-half attempt and finished with only four in total, while Barca had three big chances - from which Opta would expect them to score - and netted two of them.

"The last times I have come to speak [to the media] have been painful moments," Pique said. "Today I am very proud of the team. We came from hard blows and the team has risen.

"Today I think we have shown that the team is still very much alive, that it has the squad to compete and that on Wednesday we will fight."

Araujo, back having been out since prior to the February 10 trip to Sevilla, was only involved due to Pique's substitution on 67 minutes.

Pique, whose seven aerial duels contested was more than any other Barca player, was not injured, though, rather still working to recover full fitness following a three-month layoff with a knee injury.

"It is a small inconvenience," he said. "I had not played for a long time and I am playing more than expected.

"It was agreed that this would be the minute. I am very happy to continue participating."

Ronald Koeman has not given up on Barcelona winning LaLiga as they face a pivotal run of fixtures that could define their season, starting with Elche at home on Wednesday. 

Barca sit fourth in the table after only managing a draw at home to Cadiz at the weekend, a surprise result that ended a streak of seven successive league wins. 

However, with leaders Atletico Madrid losing at home to Levante, meaning they have managed just one victory in their previous four outings, Koeman retains hope his team can make up ground and get involved in a title race. 

Atleti have a three-point cushion over second-placed Real Madrid, who have played a game more than their neighbours, while Barcelona are eight points adrift.  

In between the two Clasico rivals are Sevilla, to whom Koeman's side travel to play this weekend in league action. They then host the same opponents next Tuesday in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final, Barca needing to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the previous meeting if they are to progress. 

"I still believe that we can fight for the championship," Koeman told the media ahead of the visit of Elche to Camp Nou. "Results are showing that each team can come down.  

"It will depend on the two games that come, which are very important to fight for the title.  

"Then, in the cup, we have to come back. In the two competitions, we can do things. This week, we have three games that are important.

"It is difficult because we have to overcome a home game against Sevilla without an audience, with an audience it would be easier." 

Barca had 20 attempts and 81 per cent of possession against Cadiz but were punished for their wastefulness when Clement Lenglet was ruled to have fouled Ruben Sobrino in the penalty area, allowing Alex Fernandez to convert for an 89th-minute equaliser for the visitors with their only shot on target.

While they have scored 50 goals in LaLiga this campaign – the most by any team in the competition – Koeman wants to see his players become more ruthless in attack. 

"The problem is not that we do not create. It would be worse if we did not create opportunities," the Dutchman said when reflecting on Sunday's performance.

"We must ask for more effectiveness from the players at the top. We create opportunities and we did not score to make it 2-0.  

"These are important moments and, this season, we lack effectiveness. The percentage of goals is low for a team like Barcelona."

Koeman confirmed that Ronald Araujo is not yet ready to return from injury, though the defender is "improving" and could feature in either of the upcoming games against Sevilla.

Athletic Bilbao head coach Marcelino acknowledged his players suffered from nerves during their Copa del Rey semi-final against Levante.

Marcelino's side needed an Inigo Martinez equaliser at San Mames after Gonzalo Melero had given Levante the lead as the first leg of the tie finished 1-1 on Thursday.

Athletic were the stronger of the two sides after the break following a timid first-half showing but were unable to find a winner.

The second leg will be played at Levante's Estadio Ciudad de Valencia on March 4, with the winners set to face either Sevilla or Barcelona in the final on April 17.

Athletic still have last season's delayed Copa final against rivals Real Sociedad to play on April 4 and their chance to complete the unprecedented feat of winning the trophy twice in the same month remains a possibility.

They have progressed in nine consecutive knockout rounds in the Copa del Rey - their best run since 11 in a row between 1983 and 1985 (including finals) - but Marcelino said his players must be better in the second leg.

"It may have been anxiety," Marcelino told a post-match press conference.

"We were not comfortable in any facet of the game. We missed simple passes and we were not mobile. 

"In the first half, most of the players were below their level. Then the idea of the game changed and we found ourselves again with what we like.

"It is clear that to be in a final we have to play as in the second half. We must demand more of ourselves.

"Approaching that level of play we can be in the final, but it is clear that we will not be able to drop a level even a minute in Valencia."

Levante boss Paco Lopez insisted his players must forget the second leg, and the prospect of reaching the Copa del Rey final for the first time in their history, and instead focus on LaLiga for the time being.

"We understand that people are waiting for this game but not for us now. There are three weeks in between," he added.

"What we have in the league is the most important thing now and we must put the focus there.

"On March 4 it will come and before we have several games and we are going to have to demand it from ourselves."

Athletic Bilbao's Copa del Rey semi-final against Levante is finely poised after a 1-1 draw in the first leg at San Mames

Gonzalo Melero netted the opener midway through the first half when he swept in from inside the penalty area following some haphazard Athletic defending.

But Athletic, who are still to play the 2019-20 Copa final, got themselves back on level terms just before the hour as Inigo Martinez climbed highest inside the box to head home from a corner.

The match remained all square and the second leg - at Levante's Ciudad de Valencia on March 4 - must now produce a victor to advance and face either Sevilla or Barcelona in the April final.

Melero broke the deadlock following a cagey start when he received the ball from Jorge de Frutos near the penalty spot and slotted into the net.

Inaki Williams almost equalised two minutes later with Athletic's first chance, but his long-range effort was kept out by Daniel Cardenas, before he squandered the hosts' best opportunity of the first half with a header from Iker Muniain's corner.

Levante were indebted to goalkeeper Cardenas as Athletic applied pressure straight after the break, first saving Raul Garcia's diving header and then keeping out a low shot from Williams.

But Athletic deserved their equaliser as Muniain's outswinging delivery was met by Martinez, who escaped his marker and powerfully headed beyond Cardenas.

Only a superb block by Oscar Duarte denied Alex Berenguer and there was a final chance as another Muniain corner caused panic in the Levante box in the fourth minute of injury time, but Yeray Alvarez could not generate sufficient power with his header and Cardenas gathered.

Athletic Bilbao's Copa del Rey semi-final against Levante is finely poised after a 1-1 draw in the first leg at San Mames

Gonzalo Melero netted the opener midway through the first half when he swept in from inside the penalty area following some haphazard Athletic defending.

But Athletic, who are still to play the 2019-20 Copa final, got themselves back on level terms just before the hour as Inigo Martinez climbed highest inside the box to head home from a corner.

The match remained all square and the second leg - at Levante's Ciudad de Valencia on March 4 - must now produce a victor to advance and face either Sevilla or Barcelona in the April final.

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman does not believe Sevilla's 2-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg win over the Blaugrana was a fair reflection of the match, while he also questioned the officials.

Jules Kounde opened the scoring in the first half with a fine individual effort, before former Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic wrapped up a potentially significant win in the latter stages.

Lionel Messi did go close several times for the visitors, with Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou keeping him at bay as he made four saves in total – the Moroccan has saved all 18 shots on target he has had to face in this season's Copa.

The two teams renew hostilities at Camp Nou on March 3 for the second half, though Barca have only progressed past Sevilla once in the Copa when losing the first leg to the Andalusians.

Barca shaded the possession (53.6 per cent) and their 13 shots were two more than the hosts, with Koeman left convinced his side had been hard done by.

"It is a result with too much reward for them," Koeman said. "We have seen a Barca playing well, creating a very clear chances.

"We have put a lot of pressure in the second half. I cannot blame the team. There is another game left, we have to try to win and play the final.

"It is difficult at 2-0. We had opportunities to score, but their defence was good, as was their goalkeeper too, but at home this Barca is capable of anything."

Barca were left frustrated by a moment in the second half where Suso was adjudged to have fouled Jordi Alba just outside the box, yet Koeman and his players were convinced the offence occurred inside the box.

The VAR did not appear to intervene, and this left Koeman bemused.

"Mateu Lahoz [the referee] I think was good in general," Koeman said.

"Of course, there was always doubt with the incident of the penalty, because everyone says it was a penalty, so I have to believe them – not only the Barca people [said it should have been a penalty].

"I don't know why the VAR has not intervened."

Sevilla go into the second leg with a significant advantage and know that an away goal will give Barca a mountain to climb, but they are not getting ahead of themselves, aware the most difficult task is yet to come.

"We knew it was going to be very difficult, the team played a great game, we fought to the end and that is worth it, football gives back to you in this way," Rakitic said.

"But we have half the work left to do in Barcelona."

Coach Julen Lopetegui echoed that sentiment, adding: "The team played a great game against a Barcelona that arrived in good form.

"We played well, we defended well and it was a very beautiful game. Now, we have the most complicated and most difficult thing left, which is to play at the Camp Nou. We are aware of the challenge."

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