Camp Nou, Barcelona
Wednesday, 6th January, 2016
Copa del Rey, Round of 16, 1st Leg
FC Barcelona take on RCD Espanyol in the first leg of the pre-quarter finals of the Spanish Copa del Rey at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night. Both teams square off against each other in the Spain’s premier cup competition barely 3 days after their encounter in the league – the first Catalan derby of the season – ended in a controversial 0-0 stalemate at the Estadi Cornell -El Prat. Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi came the closest to breaking the deadlock for the Blaugrana, but their efforts were only good enough to rattle the woodwork.
Espanyol themselves had a host of chances during the match, most notably through Hernan Perez, but failed to find the back of the net in front of a rowdy home crowd. FC Barcelona would be hoping to put in an improved showing in front of the Blaugrana faithful and take a sizable lead heading into the 2nd leg in a week’s time.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Blaugrana manager Luis Enrique is expected to ring in the changes to his starting XI against Espanyol. Enrique has a policy of fielding several younger players and academy graduates in cup matches and Wednesday is expected to be no different.
German goal keeper Marc Andre ter-Stegen, who last played for the Catalans almost a month ago against Bayer Leverkusen, will start in goal against Espanyol. Claudio Bravo along with Douglas, Sandro and Adriano have been omitted by Enrique from his match day squad all together. New signing Aleix Vidal, who had been ineligible to play for FC Barcelona until the turn of the year, is expected to deputize at right back for Dani Alves. Marc Bartra, Thomas Vermaelen and J r my Mathieu are also expected to start ahead of the rested trio of Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique and Javier Macherano.
Sergi Roberto suffered a thigh injury during his substitute appearance at the weekend and has not fully recovered to feature on Wednesday. Turkish International Arda Turan is expected to make his first appearance in an FC Barcelona shirt against Espanyol and will most likely replace Andres Iniesta at the center of the park. Lionel Messi is expected to drop into the midfield in order to accommodate Munir further up the field alongside Suarez and Neymar.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): ter-Stegen; Bartra, Vidal, Mathieu, Vermaelen; Busquets, Turan, Messi; Neymar, Munir, Suarez.
Espanyol manager Constantin GA?lcA? would have been thrilled with a point against his club’s Catalan counterparts and will be demanding more of the same from his players at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.
Anaitz Arbilla and Jose Canas have been ruled out the Copa del Rey clash with foot injuries while Victor Sanchez is suffering from a hamstring problem and has also been ruled out.
GA?lcA? can barely afford to put out a second string side against FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou. However, the Espanyol manager will look to make a few changes to starting line up with Gerard Moreno, Salva Sevilla and Ruben Duarte expected to feature prominently on the night.
Hernan Perez, who has undoubtedly been Espanyol’s player of the season so far, will look to inspire his team to an unlikely win over their Catalan counterparts in the first leg of the competition.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): . Pau; Duarte, Gonzalez, Roco, Lopez; Diop, Sevilla; Asencio, Moreno, Perez; Caicedo.
- Espanyol have not beaten FC Barcelona in the last six years.
- Barcelona have won 93 times against Espanyol, the most theyai??i??ve won against any side in the league.
- Espanyol have scored only once in their last 7 games against Barcelona.
- Barcelona have won more penalties (9) than any other side in Europeai??i??s top 5 leagues.
Player to watch out for:
Arda Turan (FC Barcelona)
Turkish midfielder Arda Turan has been patiently waiting in the wings, alongside Aleix Vidal, for his opportunity to shine for the Blaugrana. He will finally get the chance to do so on Wednesday when FC Barcelona take on their derby rivals in the first leg of their Copa del Rey cup tie. The presence of Turan in midfield will give Barcelona the necessary fire and drive from the middle of the park, which they have been so desperately lacking in the past month. The former Atletico Madrid player will be looking to make an instant impact for the Blaugrana, and what better occasion to do so than the Catalan derby.
FC Barcelona 4 – 0 RCD Espanyol
Still reeling from their fiery 0-0 stalemate at the Estadi Cornell -El Prat at the weekend, Luis Enrique’s FC Barcelona will be smelling blood when their Catalan neighbours make the short trip to the Camp Nou on Wednesday. Although Enrique will most likely rest most of his first team players, the presence of the explosive triumvirate of Messi-Suarez-Neymar in his side will hand Barcelona a comfortable victory against Espanyol.