Ronald Koeman is set to ring in the changes when Barcelona face Cornella in the Round of 32 of the Copa Del Rey on Thursday.
With Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid out of the competition, Barcelona have an excellent chance of sealing the Copa Del Rey title this season, as they lock horns with Cornella on Thursday, in a Round of 32 clash.
However, Ronald Koeman is unlikely to field his strongest eleven despite the importance of this fixture. Instead, we might see a bunch of La Masia graduates getting rare first-team opportunities, as well as fringe players, although the Barcelona boss remained tight-lipped when asked about Neto’s possible involvement ahead of the game.
“I haven’t made all the decisions yet. We have another training session tomorrow,” Koeman said, during his pre-match press conference. We do, however, expect the Brazilian to start this one, ahead of Marc Andre ter Stegen.
A few more changes in defence could see Oscar Mingueza replacing Sergino Dest at right-back while Samuel Umtiti and Junior Firpo are almost guaranteed to return to the side. It essentially means that Ronald Araujo could be the only defensive player to retain his place in the starting eleven from the defeat to Athletic Bilbao.
Miralem Pjanic may feature as the only experienced player in the Barcelona midfield, as he forms the double pivot alongside Riqui Puig. The youngster is starting to get noticed by Koeman thanks to a string of impressive cameos off the bench. A match against Cornella could, therefore, serve as an ideal opportunity for him to further raise some eyebrows this midweek.
Speaking of opportunities, Koeman could hand Illaix Moriba his senior debut against Cornella. The 18-year-old has earned a lot of rave reviews and it won’t be surprising to see him in the starting lineup. A central midfielder by trade, Moriba could feature alongside Puig, with Pjanic operating in the deepest role.
Moving forward, Koeman has a lot of options in the attacking department. However, Lionel Messi will be unavailable after incurring a suspension following his uncharacteristic petulant act against Bilbao last weekend.
When asked about the Argentine’s fitness, Koeman responded, “He trained fine without problems this morning. He came from playing 120 minutes and I think he’s doing OK. We’ll see how many games, in the end, his sanction will be.”
Messi’s absence, therefore, could pave the way for Francisco Trincao to get a rare starting opportunity, with Antoine Griezmann and Martin Braithwaite partnering him in the three-man Barcelona attack. Konrad de la Fuente remains an alternative, along with Pedri.
Barcelona Predicted XI: Neto; Mingueza, Araujo, Umtiti, Junior; Pjanic, Puig; Trincao, Moriba, Griezmann; Braithwaite