FC Barcelona merely need to avoid disaster tomorrow when they host SD Huesca at the Camp Nou in the second-leg of their Copa del Rey fourth round clash with the Segunda Division 2B leaders. With a comfortable four goal aggregate lead after an emphatic 4-0 win in Huesca, Barça simply have to avoid conceding five goals tomorrow to book their place in the quarter-finals and set up a clash with either Real Valladolid or Elche. Even then, if Barcelona conceded five goals they could still go through, provided they score at least twice.
Obviously, you all know which results would send the Blaugrana packing and being honest, there is absolutely no chance of Huesca turning this one around. Still, be that as it may, Barcelona still have to go through the motions and turn up tomorrow. They have to put 11 players out on the field and they need to win as well to appease the Camp Nou crowd, especially after a disappointing goalless draw with Getafe CF at the weekend.
Anything less than another victory will likely see the world calling for Luis Enrique’s immediate dismissal; it just goes to show that if you’re FC Barcelona manager, there is no such thing as a meaningless match. Even a dead-rubber second-leg Copa del Rey clash with an unknown side could make or break your tenure.
And that’s probably why only five players from Eusebio’s B team are likely to be called up to the squad tomorrow: Munir El Haddadi, Sandro Ramirez, Adama Traore, Diawandou Diagne and Sergi Samper trained with the squad today, but it’s unknown as to who will get game-time, even with the aggregate score in mind.
Instead, it’s probable that we will see a number of Enrique’s fringe players from the first team as he looks to alleviate the pressure by returning to winning ways as soon as possible.
As mentioned above, it seems unlikely that we will see a full-scale "invasion" of B team players tomorrow; instead Lucho will hand this opportunity to some of our lesser-seen first team players. Apart from Jordi Masip and Martin Montoya that is, both of whom are almost certainly not going to feature unless Enrique has a drastic change of heart.
Therefore, Marc-Andre ter Stegen will start between the sticks after another good performance against Paris Saint-Germain, although he isn’t quite as likely to be called into action as often as he was against the Ligue Un champions. Still, any experience is experience and ter Stegen will be eager to impress once again.
In defense, Douglas will start at right-back, with his compatriot Adriano Correia odds-on to feature on the opposite flank, meaning another snub for Martin Montoya who looks destined to depart the club in January. In the centre of defense, Javier Mascherano and Marc Bartra were rested at the weekend and could rotate into the line-up accordingly, but Diagne is an option if Lucho wants to throw some B team talent into the mix.
At pivote, Sergi Samper should start, although he will face competition from Javier Mascherano, provided the latter doesn’t start at centre-half as outlined above. Meanwhile, Rafinha Alcantara and Sergi Roberto could complete the midfield, although I wouldn’t rule out an appearance for Andres Iniesta or Ivan Rakitic just yet. One thing is for sure though: Xavi will not feature, and it would be a shock to see the veteran Catalan even included amongst the substitutes.
In attack, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez should rotate out of the team and indeed the squad altogether, allowing Munir, Sandro and Pedro to start together in all-Spanish forward line. Indeed, Adama Traore could also feature in place of one of this trio and based on his form for the B team, we should be excited about the prospect of seeing the powerful winger in action for the senior squad. Equally, Rafinha could be pushed forward as his versatility provides Enrique with an option – although again, being blunt, does it really matter who features? On a night like this, there’s simply no way that Enrique can get it wrong.
With a landslide 6-1 victory over Madrid-based minnows and recent newcomers to the Spanish third tier, Trival Valderas, SD Huesca reclaimed their place at the top of the table at the weekend. Of course, a repeat of that scoreline would send Huesca through to the Round of 16 but it ain’t gonna happen. Still, they’ll give it their best shot; even grabbing a goal at the Camp Nou would be an achievement for this small club who were founded by a Barcelona member.
SD Huesca 0-4 FC Barcelona – 3rd December 2014 – Copa del Rey
An easy victory for the Blaugrana, as goals from Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta, Pedro and Rafinha secured the win for the visitors.
Barcelona (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Douglas, Bartra, Mascherano, Adriano; Samper, Roberto, Rafinha; Adama, Sandro, Munir
Huesca (4-2-3-1): Jimenez; Aythami, David, Garcia, Morillas; Gaspsar, Ros; Cabezas, Juanjo, Josan; Marti
Easy – how many do we want? I think the mercy rule kicks in around three or four…so I’m going for a 3-0 home win.
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