Barcelona and Real Madrid both crashed out of the Copa del Rey on Thursday night as Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad pulled off a shock Basque double to reach the semi-finals.
Barca were beaten 1-0 by Bilbao at San Mames, where Inaki Williams scored a dramatic 93rd-minute winner, after la Real had seen off Madrid 4-3 in a seven-goal thriller at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Two sensational upsets added another layer of excitement to a competition that has been full of surprises this season, with Bilbao and Real Sociedad now joining Granada and second division Mirandes in an unfamiliar line-up for the draw on Friday.
For Barca, defeat was particularly painful, coming at the end of a turbulent week that saw Lionel Messi engage in a public spat with the club’s sporting director Eric Abidal and Ousmane Dembele ruled out, probably for the rest of the season, with another hamstring tear.
To make matters worse, Gerard Pique hobbled off with his own injury problem in the second half against Bilbao and now looks doubtful to face Real Betis in La Liga on Sunday.
Messi’s riposte that “everyone should take responsibility for their own decisions” after Abidal suggested Ernesto Valverde was sacked last month because of the players, means Barcelona are in political turmoil off the pitch.
And the fear is Messi could even leave in the summer by activating a clause in his contract that allows him to walk away from the club for free.
Quique Setien has now lost two of his opening six games in charge, with a Champions League tie against Napoli fast-approaching. The fall-out from another disappointment in Europe would prove longer-lasting.
For a rotated Madrid side, who sit top of La Liga, the loss against Real Sociedad was perhaps less damaging, even if they conceded as many goals in 69 minutes as they had in their last 11 matches.
Martin Odegaard, on loan at la Real but allowed to face his parent club, scored the opener before the superb Alexander Isak hit two to give Real Sociedad a remarkable 3-0 lead.
Marcelo and Rodrygo both scored late in the second half and while Mikel Merino added a fourth for the visitors, a Nacho Fernandez header set up a wild final three minutes, in which Andoni Gorosabel was also sent off.
Ten-man Real Sociedad held on for a superb win to progress to the last four while Madrid’s run without success in Spain’s domestic cup extends to six years.
“It hurts, we have to be honest, nobody likes a defeat,” said Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.
Their 21-game unbeaten streak comes to an end after an uncharacteristically careless performance in which a rotated side highlighted the importance of the likes of Casemiro, Raphael Varane and Thibaut Courtois.
Courtois’ replacement Alphonse Areola was at fault for at least one of the goals while Marcelo was typically unpredictable at left-back, a position the more dependable Ferland Mendy has made his own in recent weeks.