Barcelona host Athletic Bilbao in the second leg of their Copa del Rey tie tonight
Barcelona need to beat Athletic Bilbao in order to progress having lost the first tie 2-1 at the San Mames Stadium. Lionel Messi managed to pick up what could be a crucial away goal, so there is still hope for Luis Enrique’s side as they prepare to face Bilbao.
A further boost will be the fact that Athletic Bilbao are missing two key midfielders in Ander Iturraspe and Raul Garcia, both of whom were sent off in the first leg against Barcelona and will miss this match through a suspension.
For Barcelona, they were boosted by the return of Jasper Cillessen to training. This means that Luis Enrique has his entire squad at his disposal and can pick any team he wishes to. Cillessen will still probably not feature, given that he has only just returned to training.
Enrique is likely to name the strongest team possible, however, as Barcelona look to overcome the first-leg deficit.
Ivan Rakitic is also set to miss out after falling out of favour with Luis Enrique. Rakitic has been dropped from the squad for recent games and played no part in the 1-1 draw with Villareal. Rakitic is also said to be on his way out from Barcelona, with links to Manchester City re-emerging earlier this week.
Neymar has been in the middle of a worrying goal drought, with his last goal for Barcelona coming on October 19th against Manchester City in the Champions League. Despite this, Enrique has kept the faith in the Brazilian trickster and Neymar will likely retain his place in the side, despite the fact that Arda Turan ended 2016 in fine form.
Barcelona also opted not to send the trio of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique for the inaugural FIFA “The Best Player” award, and all three are set to start against Bilbao. Pique himself will be hoping for a much better performance from the referee, after he was seen screaming in frustration at the performance of the referee after the game against Villarreal.
Provisional Barcelona squad: ter Stegen, Masip, Pique, Mascherano, Alba, Digne, Roberto, Vidal, Umtiti, Iniesta, Busquets, D. Suarez, Turan, Alcantara, Gomes, Messi, L. Suarez, Neymar