With another El Clasico on the immediate horizon, and the chance to get one foot into yet another Copa del Rey final, Ernesto Valverde must banish all thoughts of rotation because the chance of silverware should never be passed up.
It actually shouldn’t make a difference either who the opponents are at this stage, plus Barca’s comeback against Sevilla told us all that the team are ‘in it to win it.’
There is no bigger game for a Barcelona manager than facing Real Madrid pic.twitter.com/CpClxAeT1j— Adeoye Kehinde David (@DavidDavidic) February 2, 2019
Though it may not be the highest priority of this campaign, the way in which the Andalusians were dismantled, and the player selection on the night, hinted that it is a competition that the club are still taking seriously.
It massively devalues the cup when teams consistently put out weakened XIs. Just look at the FA Cup in England by way of example.
Having Real Madrid as opponents over two legs certainly adds some spice to the semi-finals, and with the league game at the Santiago Bernabeu immediately following the second leg (the first time in Barca’s history they’ll play two consecutive games at the stadium), the carrot of virtually ending Los Blancos’ season isn’t something to be downplayed.
Indeed, that will prove hugely motivational to a team who showed a doggedness to their play in coming back against a spirited Valencia.
There needs to be a conversation around ‘Messidependence’ too. I read in far too many columns that ‘Barca aren’t the same team without their talisman,’ ‘The Catalans can’t cope’ yada yada...
Frankly, that’s not really anything to be ashamed of.
Take the main man out of any of the top European teams and there’ll be a noticeable difference in output and chances taken.
The slight niggle he picked up against Los Che could be a concern, and there’s a school of thought that says he has to be rested against Real.
I strongly disagree. Patch him up and send him into battle. Depend on him.
Messi's injury is nothing serious. Doctors have looked at him in the locker and have concluded it's not major. The team has a party tomorrow and training will resume on Monday. There's signs he'll likely play on Wednesday. [@gerardromero] pic.twitter.com/mN0RMwzf9s— Barça Centre (@barcacentre) February 2, 2019
There are other, less important fixtures (Valladolid, Rayo) with respect, where he can take a breather.
Real have only kept two clean sheets this year and whether Leo gets on the scoresheet or not, he’ll set the pace and rhythm and be the difference maker.
Further, Jordi Alba, Arthur and Dembele, if fit, all have to start.
The Spaniard and Frenchman offer width, pace and a decent outlet when required, whilst the Brazilian has afforded Barca the highest level of security thanks to his ball retention.
With two remontadas already in this seasons competition, this really isn’t the game to be tinkering.
If Valverde does so again, he’s likely to come unstuck this time because lightning never strikes three times.
And it’s unforgivable to even give it a moment’s thought against Real Madrid.