Football teams don't really appreciate their Cups as they once did. The national knockout tournaments started losing momentum with the popularity of the Champions League, and now the Cups are cool trophies to win, but don't bring as much glory anymore.
But Cups are actually hugely important if you're a team chasing history. You can't win a Treble in Europe without winning your Cup, and especially in Spain, Cups almost always mean another chance to watch the biggest game on the planet. Barcelona takes the Copa del Rey seriously as soon as it gets serious (A.K.A. until they face Real Madrid), but right now it really doesn't, especially because of the opponents.
For Villanovense, however, it's possibily the biggest two-game tie of the club's history. They'll get to go to Camp Nou in December, which is why they reacted this way when they learned they'd face Barça:
This amazing moment is worth watching the game. But let's get one thing out of the way: Barcelona will win this match. Probably very comfortably. It's a third division team, a very weak one for that matter, and the Blaugrana are going to leave Villanueva de la Serena with a Round of 16 place booked. We just need to find out the results, and based on the team, answer some interesting questions.
Can Sergi Samper rise to the occasion?
The day has finally arrived. The announcement of the squad list brought us some fantastic news: Barça B wonderkid Sergi Samper is, at last, part of the first team at least for one game. He's one of the best talents coming from La Masia in a long time, and he has waited long for this chance. Based on the few options at midfield, Samper is likely to get a starting place on Wednesday's game. Against a weak opposition, he is in prime position to have a great performance and impress Luis Enrique. The coach, whether it's late or not, is giving him a shot. Now it's Samper's time to grab the brass ring and earn Lucho's trust.
Who will take over without Neymar and Suárez?
All the biggest stars are home, and Munir El-Haddadi and Sandro Ramírez will have a chance to start together, playing in the positions they like. Munir is a fan of the left wing, and Sandro is a striker. They've been playing in the right spot to replace Lionel Messi, and haven't been as good as expected or necessary. Now, against a team that concedes more than a goal per game against third division opponents, and likey to start on the slots they feel the best, they will get some good scoring chances. A match this easy doesn't need Neymar and Suárez. It's up to Munir and Sandro to confirm it.
Which veteran will play at midfield?
Samper and Gumbau will start, but Kaptoum is just too young to be there. Enrique needs a veteran player to guide the kids, and he has some decisions to make. Ivan Rakitic is the obvious choice, but Lucho could make some cool changes, personnel and scheme-wise. For instance, he could play a 3-4-3 with Alves and Alba/Adriano as wingbacks, which will offer support to the youngsters. All three have experience playing higher up the pitch. Vermaelen has played some defensive midfield way back when, and could make his return with a surprising start as a pivote on a 4-3-3. That's just me putting my crazy mind to work, but Lucho isn't a fan of making crazy changes, and should use Rakitic there. Bummer.
PROJECTED BARCELONA LINEUP (4-3-3)
Stegen | Douglas, Bartra, Vermaelen, Adriano | Samper, Rakitic, Gumbau | Aitor, Sandro, Munir
The kids up front will certainly relish this opportunity to shine and impress the coach, and they'll certainly go for the jugular. Easy, dominant, 4-0 win.