Jeison Murillo is set to make his Barcelona debut when Ernesto Valverde’s men meet Levante in the Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg on Thursday.
Barcelona will continue the defence of their Copa del Rey crown on Thursday, when they face off against Levante at the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie. And, Ernesto Valverde is set to ring in the changes, owing to the congested fixture list.
While the Barcelona boss is already without three first-team players – Samuel Umtiti, Thomas Vermaelen and Rafinha – due to their injuries problem, he has also decided to rest several regulars. The likes of Gerard Pique, Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba and Munir El Haddadi have been excluded from the travelling squad.
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In their stead, Valverde his included a number of fringe players and academy products, some of whom have already made their presence felt in the cup competition this season. The manager has also iterated, as reported by Sport, that he will make rotations to his side when they face Levante on Thursday.
“With a league game around the corner on Sunday, we will make changes. I am sure they will, too, even though our ambition is to get through to the next round. [Players like] Messi and Suarez could be rested, it’s a possibility.”
The changes start right from the back, with Jasper Cillessen taking his customary place in goal for cup games. In front of him, the back four should resemble a completely new look, with Jeison Murillo set to make his Barcelona debut against Levante.
Partnering Murillo, should be Chumi, with Clement Lenglet likely to be rested, keeping in mind the intense workload to come. On the left flank, Juan Miranda should take Alba’s place, with Nelson Semedo replacing Sergi Roberto as the right-back.
In midfield, Sergio Busquets is likely to play the Anchor Man role, having been preserved against Getafe last weekend. The veteran midfielder ought to be the first player substituted, if Barcelona are in command of the game in the second half.
Giving him company in midfield, should be Carles Alena and Denis Suarez, who could be playing his final game for Barcelona on Thursday. Up ahead in attack, Valverde will be without a natural striker, with Munir El Haddadi inching closer to his exit from Camp Nou, while Luis Suarez is rested.
The Barcelona boss addressed Munir’s situation during his pre-match press conference, “It appears that Munir has made a decision, the Club also. The sooner a solution is found, the better. If it can be resolved in the winter transfer market, all the better.”
With Messi and Luis Suarez rested, the front three becomes an automatic selection, with Malcom likely to be the striker. Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele should complete the side.