After a successful start to the 2024 with a hard-fought comeback win over Las Palmas in La Liga, Barcelona begin a new journey in the Spanish Cup as they travel to the tiny town of Barbastro to face the city’s team in the Copa del Rey Round of 32.
Fourth Division Barbastro are about to play the biggest game in their history against the mighty Barça, and they will no doubt give everything they have to cause an upset against Xavi Hernández’s men. The Catalans got a very favorable draw and are giant favorites in this one, but cup ties against small teams on the road are always prone to shocking results.
Here’s how we think Xavi will line up his troops for Sunday’s battle to avoid the upset.
Barça will travel to Saudi Arabia shortly after this game for the Spanish Super Cup semi-final against Osasuna next Thursday, and with the prospect of a final just a few days later, it is widely expected that Xavi will heavily rotate his squad to face a fourth division team and hope that he won’t need to use his biggest stars to get a result.
It appears as though Barça dodged a major bullet with João Cancelo avoiding a serious knee injury against Las Palmas, but the full-back will still miss at least a couple of weeks and won’t make this trip. Cancelo probably would have been rested anyway, and the same can be said for Ronald Araujo who is usually left out of these sorts of games.
Injuries to Marcos Alonso and Iñigo Martínez won’t allow for too much rotation, though Iñigo is back in training and will probably get some second half minutes in this one to start getting back to full fitness. So that leaves Alejandro Balde, Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen as the first team players likely to start this one, with young Héctor Fort getting another shot at right-back.
Without Gavi and Pedri it is priority number one to rest Frenkie de Jong and Ilkay Gündogan in every possible opportunity, and this game is the perfect chance to give them a night off. Sergi Roberto has also gained importance in recent games and will probably be on the bench too, so we’ll see a very different midfield trio on Sunday.
Oriol Romeu will get a rare start and could use a good game against a lesser team to build up his confidence, and the same goes for Fermín López who hasn’t been as prominent as he was earlier this season. The final spot in midfield would likely go to Marc Casadó, though Roberto might also start if Xavi wants a little more experience.
The Vitor Roque Era has begun after a productive debut for the young Brazilian, who displayed many of the qualities that make him a very good fit for Xavi’s system. Even though his role will be a minor one to begin life at Barça, this is the perfect opportunity to give him his first start and help him score as soon as possible to not build unnecessary pressure on such a young prospect.
Speaking of young prospects, Lamine Yamal absolutely should start this one and also build his confidence as he tries to navigate a difficult spell. João Félix will likely start on the left, but don’t rule out the possibility of Robert Lewandowski starting up front with Vitor Roque on the left. This is a good chance to experiment with different lineup combinations, and Xavi needs to find out if his strikers can play together before the big games come.
Possible XI: Peña; Fort, Kounde, Christensen, Balde; Fermín, Romeu, Casadó; Yamal, Roque, Félix (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Barbastro? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!