The newly crowned champions of the Spanish Super Cup are back in action this week as Barcelona make another long trip for a Cup game, this time to the Spanish territory of Ceuta in the African continent to meet AD Ceuta in the Round of 16 of the Copa del Rey.
Barça certainly had a very nice flight back to Spain after a very productive week in Saudi Arabia, and having had time to celebrate and digest their first title of the season it is now about building on the success from last week and continuing to get better as they fight for three more trophies.
And if they beat the lowest-ranked team left in the Spanish Cup on Thursday, Barça will already be at the quarterfinal stage which would mean just three games between them and another final. Ceuta have been the surprise of the competition so far and will no doubt play the game of their lives against the mighty Barça, so this shouldn’t be taken for granted. Here’s how we think Xavi Hernández will line up his troops for this one.
Barça had to play extra-time in their last Cup match, then another 120-minute battle in the Super Cup semi-final and had just two days of rest before a very demanding El Clásico. The trip to Africa adds another layer of fatigue to what has already been a very busy month, and with an early kickoff against Getafe on Sunday there is only one smart choice to make: rest all of the starters in this one.
The Blaugrana have more than enough depth to beat Ceuta, and the brutal tie against Intercity two weeks ago will teach them to treat the game very seriously from the start even with a rotated side. I fully believe Xavi should rest the entire team that started against Madrid, except for one player.
That one player is not part of the defense, and Ronald Araujo really needs a rest after playing virtually every minute since coming back from injury. Héctor Bellerín should replace him at right-back, and resting Jules Kounde, Andreas Christensen and Alejandro Balde would mean Eric García and Marcos Alonso at center-back with Jordi Alba returning at left-back.
Barça’s four-man midfield of Sergio Busquets, Frenkie De Jong, Pedri and Gavi was truly formidable against Real Madrid and will no doubt be a crucial part of Xavi’s gameplan over the next few weeks, and all four should sit this one out as well.
Sergi Roberto has played a few minutes in midfield since the World Cup, and it would be interesting to see him as the pivot in this one alongside Franck Kessie and Pablo Torre. Torre was one of Barça’s top performers against Intercity and deserves another shot against a lower-level side to build his confidence and earn more minutes.
Barça will be without Ferran Torres and Robert Lewandowski for the next two La Liga matches due to suspension, so it is natural to expect those two to play in this one to keep their rhythm and (especially for Ferran) find the back of the net and get some confidence. Lewandowski is the only starter from the Super Cup with a real shot of starting this one, and he would certainly relish the chance to boost his scoring numbers against a Third Division team.
With Ferran and Lewandowski expected to start, there’s only one spot left in the front three. If Ousmane Dembélé is indeed rested and Raphinha is saved for Sunday against Getafe to replace Lewandowski, then Ansu Fati would get the start. He won the Copa game against Intercity in extra-time and was brilliant as a substitute against Real Betis in the Super Cup, and it’s beyond time to start the kid and give him real minutes. Make it happen, Xavi.
Possible XI: Peña; Bellerín, Eric, Alonso, Alba; Kessie, Roberto, Torre; Ferran, Lewandowski, Fati (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Ceuta? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!