Barcelona’s Copa del Rey campaign begins against Intercity
Barcelona need to quickly forget their disappointing draw in the Catalan Derby as they are set to make their Copa del Rey debut against Intercity.
Historically, the Copa del Rey is the club competition the Catalan side has seen its most success. In fact, they hold the record with the most amount of titles with 31.
With a crucial LaLiga match coming up against Atletico Madrid, manager Xavi Hernandez will need to be cognizant of making sure he doesn’t tire out his squad so early in the second half of the season but ensure they don’t overlook the opponent. In this new format, the early rounds are only a one-legged affair and Barcelona are not immune to having a bad day and the last thing they need is to be dumped out so early.
We now take a look at the expected line-up to face Intercity.
It wouldn’t be Barcelona if they didn’t wait until the last minute to register a player and it was goalkeeper Iñaki Peña who was the subject of that uncertainty. But the 23-year-old keeper was registered in time and is on the line to make his season debut in place of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
At right-back, expect Hector Bellerin to get the nod in place of Sergi Roberto. The former Arsenal and Real Betis player has had a rough start since his return and will look to use this opportunity to not only get playing time but impress the manager.
At center-back, Ronald Araujo is set to reappear following a long time away due to injury. The Uruguayan went to the World Cup with Uruguay but the nation did not get far enough in the tournament for Araujo to have a chance to play. To partner Araujo, Xaxi has a wealth of options. Jules Kounde played in the second half against Espanyol but, if fit, this is a chance for Eric Garcia to get back in the fold.
At left-back, Alejandro Balde will get the start as he was only a late substitution in the last match. With Jordi Alba suspended for the game against Atletico Madrid, it’s important for Balde to play as he’s going to be vital the rest of the season.
With Pedri left out of the squad and given a rest, the midfield is where Xavi is likely to rotate the most.
Having not featured in the last game and in need of minutes, Pablo Torre and Franck Kessie are almost locks to start. In the case of Torre, it’s a certainty with Xavi confirming it. As for who takes up the final spot, it’s a toss up between Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong.
What it may come down to is who will start against Atletico Madrid. Despite his age, Busquets is still used in important games. Though that may be changing given his performances in higher-profile matches. But he could start if De Jong is going to start in the weekend fixture which would be the most sensible approach.
Along with Pedri, Robert Lewandowski was the only other player left out of the side, opening up an opportunity for someone to take his place if and when he serves his suspension.
Perhaps it’s the opportunity Memphis Depay has been looking for. The Dutchman hasn’t featured much the last couple of months due to injury. He played a crucial role, however, for the Netherlands and is chomping at the bit to get a chance at Barcelona. He’s down to his final six months of contract and is desperate to show what he can do either for potential suitors or for a contract extension.
One of Xavi’s priorities for the remainder of the season is to get Ansu Fati back to the level he showed before his injuries. He was given the start against Espanyol but failed to impress. He’s likely to start again against Intercity and will be given every reasonable chance to get back to the Fati of old.
Ferran Torres finds himself in a similar situation as Fati though it’s more to do with his confidence rather than injury. He still manages to get himself in the right positions as a forward but it’s his finishing that is leaving much to be desired. There’s also Raphinha who has yet to show what he did at Leeds United that earned him the move.
In essence, Barcelona’s front line has its share of problems with no one besides Lewandowski performing consistently. With Ousmane Dembele only recently returning from his stint with France, he’s more likely to come off the bench than start, if he plays at all.
More than any other area, Barcelona will look to use the game to restore some confidence in their front line. They have become too dependent on Lewandowski and others need to step up if they want to have a successful season. Given their European woes, the Copa del Rey is undoubtedly a tournament they want to win.
Expected starting XI:
Bellerin – Araujo – Garcia – Balde
Kessie – Busquets – Torre
Torres – Memphis – Fati