Linares Deportivo (Segunda B) vs FC Barcelona (La Liga)
Competition/Round: 2021-22 Copa del Rey, Round of 32
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Sergi Roberto, Martin Braithwaite, Ansu Fati, Memphis Depay, Clément Lenglet, Samuel Umtiti (out - fitness), Luuk De Jong (out - suspension), Yusuf Demir (out - personal), Pedri, Ferran Torres, Gavi, Philippe Coutinho, Sergiño Dest, Alejandro Balde, Ez Abde (out - Covid-19)
Date/Time: Wednesday, January 5, 2022, 7.30pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 6.30pm GMT (UK), 1.30pm ET, 10.30am PT (USA), 12am IST (India, Thursday)
Venue: Estadio Municipal de Linarejos, Linares, Spain
Referee: Guillermo Cuadra Fernández
How to watch on TV: Not Available (USA, Canada, India), Premier Sports 1 (UK), Startimes World Football (Nigeria), DAZN 1 (Spain), others
How to watch online: ESPN+ (USA), Premier Player (UK), others
Following a dramatic victory away to Mallorca to kick off the New Year, Barcelona return to action for their second game of January and the first in this season’s Copa del Rey as the Blaugrana begin their title defense with a Round of 32 match away to Third Division side Linares Deportivo.
The Copa title and the amazing performance against Athletic Bilbao in the Final was easily the highlight of Barça’s 2021, with an amazing run to the trophy filled with incredible twists and turns and insane comebacks in a competition that Barça clearly love to win. They will no doubt go for it again this campaign, and Xavi would love to lift a trophy in his first season as coach.
But it is hard to concentrate on a Cup run with everything going on with the club right now: the transfer window is open and some important business, namely getting rid of some players, must be done over the next four weeks. The Covid outbreak is still hitting the first team squad and leaving huge doubts over the availability of almost every player at the moment, and El Clásico is just a week away.
Beating Linares should be pretty straightforward under normal circumstances, but it’s almost impossible to know which team Xavi will be able to pick and who will be available on the bench. There is a possibility that some of the Covid positives will test negative in time to make the trip, and we could see the official debut of Dani Alves as well as the return of Ansu Fati and Memphis Depay.
We could also NOT see any of that, because we really have no idea who is going to play. Linares, on the other hand, will be waiting with a nearly full-strength squad ready to give everything they have to cause a giant upset and pick up the biggest win in the club’s very short history.
There is some real potential for a shocking result and a very quick end to Barça’s title defense. Whoever plays on Wednesday must be at their best and expect a real fight from the home team — no mistakes allowed. This is Barça’s best shot at a trophy, and a chance for youngsters and bench players to earn more minutes in the near future.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Neto; Alves, Araujo, Eric, Mingueza; Nico, Busquets, Puig; Akhomach, Jutglà, Dembélé
Linares (4-4-2): Brimah; Perejon, Lara, Gomez, Barbosa; Sanchidrian, Alex, Rodri, Carnicer; Diaz, Etxaniz
If at least some of the current Covid positives return on Wednesday, Barça should have more than enough good players to navigate a tricky tie and move on to the next round: 2-0 to the champs.