Ernesto Valverde is set to ring in the changes as Barcelona prepare to host Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey Round of 32 second leg tie at Camp Nou
Barcelona will be aiming to take a step further towards successfully defending their Copa del Rey crown when they welcome Segunda Division B side Cultural Leonesa at Camp Nou on Wednesday night.
Ernesto Valverde has fitness concerns over five first-team players heading into the cup tie, with Samuel Umtiti (knee), Sergi Roberto (hamstring), Arthur (groin), Rafinha (cruciate ligament rupture) and Luis Suarez (knee) struggling with their respective injuries.
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But, none of the five first-team players would have featured on Wednesday anyway, meaning Valverde’s focus turns towards most of his backup and youth players. Among those, Sergi Samper has missed out, as he is yet to regain full fitness following his recovery from a calf injury.
Meanwhile, Valverde has rested a number of regulars for the Copa del Rey tie against Cultural Leonesa, with a number of players from Barcelona B being called up. These players include Inaki Pena, Guillem Jaime Serrano, Chumi, Jorge Cuenca, Juan Miranda, Oriol Busquets, Alex Collado, Riqui Puig and Abel Ruiz.
Crucially for Barcelona, Jasper Cillessen and Thomas Vermaelen have been cleared to feature on Wednesday, with the duo likely to start. Joining Vermaelen at the heart of the Barcelona defence, should be Chumi, who started the first leg as well.
Another youngster who is likely to start is Miranda, who should be the left-back, with Nelson Semedo expected to be the right-back. In the middle of the park, Sergio Busquets’ void is likely to be filled by his namesake Oriol Busquets, while Denis Suarez is expected to be handed a rare start.
The player under the spotlight though, will be Carles Alena. The 20-year-old scored his first senior goal of the season against Villarreal this past weekend. And, Valverde was all praises for the player during his pre-match press conference, with Alena being called up to the first-team squad on a full-time basis.
“He is a player who has won this right over time. Now he is a first team player with full effect. We want to give him playing time and gradually turn him into an important member of the team.”
Upfront, Munir El Haddadi is likely to lead the line for Barcelona against Cultural Leonesa, with Luis Suarez out injured and Lionel Messi rested. But, the onus will be on Ousmane Dembele and Malcom to impress and stake their claim for a regular role in Valverde’s side. Philippe Coutinho and Arturo Vidal are likely to be backup options on the bench.