Ernesto Valverde is likely to name a strong side when Barcelona welcome Levante to Camp Nou in their Copa del Rey Round of 16 second leg tie on Thursday.
Barcelona will be hoping to still be alive in this season’s Copa del Rey when they play hosts to Levante at Camp Nou in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie on Thursday. And, Ernesto Valverde is likely to name a strong side to come from behind in the tie.
Levante hold the slender advantage heading into the second leg, but the Barcelona boss is hoping his first-choice players have what it takes to get the hosts over the line and through to the quarter-finals. On Thursday, Valverde will only be without four first-team players, among whom Samuel Umtiti is the only key player.
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While Valverde did not provide any team news, he did speak about the significance of the tie during his pre-match press conference, in addition to requesting the fans to egg his team on as well.
“It’s a decisive game and we want to get through to the quarter-finals. Let’s hope there is a great atmosphere in the stadium and the fans get behind us as with them we are stronger. Levante have high quality players and they are a team who score a lot of goals. Furthermore, they are getting good results away from home.”
The Barcelona boss has recalled all of the regulars who were rested last week in the first leg. Jasper Cillessen though, should start in goal for the hosts, having done so all through the Copa del Rey campaign last season as well, with Valverde trusting the deputy goalkeeper in the cup competition.
But, the back four should resemble a changed look, although Jeison Murillo is likely to start again. So should Nelson Semedo, while Clement Lenglet and Jordi Alba are expected to keep their places from last weekend’s win over Eibar.
Meanwhile, Philippe Coutinho should start in a deeper role in the midfield three, after Valverde appeared to be experimenting with some aspects against Eibar. Giving the Brazilian company in the middle of the park, should be Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic, with the former needing to do better.
Up ahead in attack, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are likely to start, so as to ensure the win as soon as possible. The front trio should be completed by Ousmane Dembele, who struggled as a makeshift striker at Levante last week, but ought to do better on the left side of the Barcelona attack. Malcom has been excluded from the matchday squad.