The Copa del Rey has entered the Round of 16 stage with Córdoba as our next opponent. This Adelante side is currently on a winless streak of four games, so what line up can we expect? What are the talking points of the game? Find out more after the jump.
So it’s Córdoba tonight. The club that will forever be strangely intertwined with the record Messi just conquered by means of the first club name that Messi mentioned right after scoring his 86th goal in this calendar year. “What’s the next challenge?”, he was asked as he was heading to the dressing room. “Córdoba,” Messi answered.
It’s really hard not to mention Messi, however unlikely he is to play tonight let alone start, as the answer echoed the working ethic of this current squad. That answer is not a premeditated one, nor is it an attempt to fulfill a necessity to appear humble and magnanimous. Messi just does it. His relentless focus on the game will be a driving catalyst for the rest of the team, especially in games like these where one can easily slip into a premature victory mindset.
Resilient defense at home
Córdoba so far has only conceded five goals in 10 games at home in Liga Adelante. They have won six games at their home stadium, including over Barcelona B and Real Madrid B. They are sitting in 11th place now because of their winless four game streak.
In their last game, they played a pretty straight forward 4-4-2 (4-4-1-1) with Vincenzo Renella and Dubarbier leading the front line. But as Vincenzo Renella was sent off for receiving a second yellow card in the 26th minute, he won’t be able to feature against Barcelona. It’s likely that Córdoba will flood the penalty box and eying the counter attack even though they’re playing at home.
Young Side from Barcelona
Sergi Roberto, Pinto, Montoya, and Mascherano have featured in all the Copa del Rey matches this season and it’s expected they will start again except for Sergi who is not in the squad. Marc Bartra is a surprise inclusion in the 19 player squad tonight, so we can expect him to get some minutes to bring his fitness back. Alves will play at right back with Montoya at left back accompanied by Pique to round out the back four.
Song, Jonathan dos Santos, and Thiago are predicted to be the three midfielders as Xavi, Iniesta, and Busquets will be rested. Song might be played at center back, but once again retraining him at centre back has made a lot of his game muddled and his decision-making seem sluggish. He might be confused at times whether to make decisions based on whether he’s a defender or a midfielder. So, I think his best position is actually a free role where he can go upfront and use his physicality, similar to Keita. If the three predicted players can create a chemistry working together, it will be a marvelous joy to behold.
Tello, Villa, and one other player (most likely Sanchez) will be the likeliest three to start in the attack. Tello and Villa need the game minutes and Villa is currently Barcelona’s Copa del Rey top scorer this season. Sanchez will need some minutes to get him back to a good fitness level.
Messi to play?
To further reduce his risk of injury, I think he will not play tonight. Maybe send him in if we are trailing in the 80th minute, but the risk outweighs the return. He will always be willing to play and who can forget his performance in the 2011 Champions League final after he was rested for 17 days prior? That’s one reason to keep him on his toes.
Predicted Starting 11
Córdoba: Alberto; Gaspar, Kiko, Juan Fuentes,J Fernandez Reyes; Lopez Garai, Pedro, Abel, C Caballero,Fede Vico; S Dubarbier
FC Barcelona: Pinto; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Montoya; Song, Thiago, Jonathan dos Santos; Tello, Villa, Alexis
UPDATE: Sergi Roberto is not in the match squad, so Jonathan dos Santos will have his last chance to convince Tito that he can stay.