FC Barcelona host Alaves tomorrow in the second leg of their Copa del Rey Round of 32 clash. With a 3-0 advantage after the first leg, the Blaugrana are virtually certain to progress to the next round, where they will face Segunda side Cordoba who shocked Real Sociedad. Barca still needs to play tomorrow though, and while they should seal their place in the Round of 16, stranger things have happened...
With a healthy lead from the first leg, Tito Vilanova has decided to leave seven key players out of the squad for tomorrow’s match as Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba and Victor Valdés have all been treated to a rare day off. With a number of key league fixtures approaching, it’s vital that Vilanova rotates his squad where possible and it’s also a fantastic opportunity for Tito to assess some of the team’s fringe players. So, who exactly do we expect to start against Alaves?
Well, Jose Manuel Pinto will start in goal after Tito gave us confirmation in today’s press conference, although the Catalan coach did not state whether or not Pinto will continue to feature in the cup – provided the Blaugrana progress past Alaves. On paper, it would make sense to see Oier Olazabal given a chance – if only to plan for the future – but Pinto is a fan-favourite and has been excellent in the past few seasons, so why bring it up? It’s certainly food for thought, not only for us as fans, but also for Pinto who might just have to think long and hard about his future.
Defensively, with Dani Alves missing out through injury one might expect Martin Montoya to start at right-back, but with Adriano back from his spell on the sidelines, I would expect the Brazilian to start on the right-hand side allowing Montoya some rest before Saturday’s match with Athletic Bilbao. In the centre of defense, both Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano have been named to the squad – with the latter likely to start – although as Puyol played 90 minutes against Levante, Alex Song seems the more likely choice alongside El Jefecito. At left-back, Carles Planas has been called up for the first time this season, and unless Montoya starts at right-back, the Barca B full-back should be given an opportunity to shine.
In midfield, Jonathan dos Santos is the favourite to start at pivote – especially if Alex Song is required in defense – with Sergi Roberto and Thiago likely to start in support of the Mexican. It wasn’t too long ago that the trio were starting for the B team, and it’d be nice to see them start with so little on the line.
Offensively, the big news is that David Villa has made the cut for tomorrow’s match and despite not yet receiving the medical green light, Tito expects El Guaje to feature at some stage. With Lionel Messi resting, Villa may even start at centre-forward, but if the Asturian cannot start for any reason, then Cesc Fàbregas will be ready to step in as a false nine. Pedro may even start at centre-forward – as it’s a role he has performed well in before for Spain – but with Alexis Sánchez still sidelined, I can’t see Tito risking Pedro tomorrow. However, with Cristian Tello and Gerard Deulofeu both ready to start on either flank, I don’t suppose Barca will miss Pedro too much!
Alaves head into tomorrow’s match missing their two first-choice keepers as Miguel Martinez and Urtzi Iturrioz are set to miss out through injury (although the latter may feature). That means that 19 year-old rookie Sergio Herrera is set to deputise at the Camp Nou – which must be even more daunting than it sounds. Aside from that, Beobide – who has featured in 13 of Alaves’ 14 league matches – is likely to miss out through injury along with veteran striker Ruben Negredo.
Deportivo Alaves 0-3 FC Barcelona – 30th October 2012 – Copa del Rey
Barcelona romped to a 3-0 victory as goals from David Villa, Andrés Iniesta and Cesc Fàbregas were enough to see off the challenge of the Segunda B2 leaders.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Pinto; Adriano, Song, Mascherano, Planas; JDS, Sergi Roberto, Thiago; Deulofeu, Villa, Tello
Alaves (4-2-3-1): Herrera; Rubio, Agustin, Hernández, Jonan; Manu, Miki, Jaume, Guzman, Barahona; Viguera
Barca should record a comfortable victory in front of the Camp Nou faithful; I’m going for another 4-0 win