FC Barcelona will be looking to book their place in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals tomorrow, as they travel to Madrid to take on Getafe CF. After a comfortable 4-0 win in last week's first-leg, the Blaugrana are virtually assured of a place in the final eight, although they will be keen to put in a professional performance and seal their place in style with another win.
A tie against either Levante or Rayo Vallecano will await Barcelona in the quarter-finals, which kickoff next midweek, with exact dates and times yet to be confirmed.
With such a comfortable margin to play with, Gerardo Martino could have been forgiven for taking this match lightly and perhaps calling up a number of B team players, especially after their Manita victory over Hercules at the weekend. However, the Argentine tactician has named a strong squad for the trip which could yield a first start of 2014 for both Neymar and Ballon d’Or runner-up, Lionel Messi.
Tata Martino has named his 18-man squad for the trip to Madrid, and despite the huge four-goal aggregate lead, there is no space in the team for Ibrahim Afellay, Isaac Cuenca or Oier Olazábal. Jonathan dos Santos remains sidelined through injury, while Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba will watch from the comforts of their own home, as Martino took the opportunity to hand the trio a well-deserved rest.
Jose Manuel Pinto will start in goal looking to keep a second successive clean sheet. With his future at the club still undecided, a few more good performances in the remainder of the competition could secure his place in the squad for next season – or at least serve as a memorable farewell for the veteran keeper.
Marc Bartra should cap off a good week that’s seen him celebrate his 23rd birthday and sign a new contract with the club by starting tomorrow. The oft-criticised leadership team of Andoni Zubizarreta and Sandro Rosell deserve credit for getting Bartra to commit his future to the club, although I’m not holding my breath. Alongside Bartra, I’d expect to see Carles Puyol, with support from Martin Montoya and Adriano Correia on either flank.
Alex Song will start at pivote, with Cesc Fàbregas and Sergi Roberto likely to join the Cameroonian in midfield, although Fàbregas may drop to the bench if Martino decides to partner Roberto with the more experienced Xavi Hernández.
In attack, I’m expecting to see Pedro join Neymar and Cristian Tello, although I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Pedro and Neymar joined by Lionel Messi, who stepped up his return with a 45 minute appearance against Atletico Madrid on Saturday. Equally, who would rule out another start at false nine for Cesc Fàbregas? Certainly Martino has a wealth of options to choose from, and no matter which way I look at it, there’s no right or wrong answer.
With a disappointing 1-0 home loss to Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, Getafe slumped to their fourth successive defeat, and their fifth loss in six matches. That’s hardly inspiring form for a team looking to overturn a four-goal deficit against the reigning La Liga champions. Virtual credit and respect to the person who can point out the last time Barcelona lost a competitive match by five goals – I can’t remember such an occurrence, and let’s face it, Getafe won’t break the mould with a Manita victory tomorrow.
FC Barcelona 4-0 Getafe CF -- 8th January 2014 -- Copa del Rey
A brace on his return to action from Lionel Messi sealed an impressive 4-0 home win in this first leg.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Pinto; Montoya, Bartra, Puyol, Adriano; Song, Fàbregas, Roberto; Pedro, Neymar, Tello
Getafe (4-2-3-1): Codina; Valera, Alexis, Rafa, Lago; Rodriguez, Lacen; Lafita, Sarabia, Gavilan; Ciprian
Barcelona may have a lead from the first leg, but I don't see any reason why they won't push for another tomorrow. I'm going for a 4-1 win.
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