Barcelona will look to extend their winning run to four games as they face Cultural Leonesa on Wednesday in the Copa Del Rey Round of 32.
It has been a positive season for FC Barcelona so far. Despite their shortcomings and lack of inconsistency in the domestic league campaign, failing to win four of their ten matches, the Blaugrana are still top of the table with 21 points.
They are coming on the back of a three-game winning run and will look to extend that record when they face Cultural Leonesa on Wednesday in the Copa Del Rey. This will be first of the two legs with Leonesa hosting this one at the Estadio Reino de Leon, a seven-hour road from Barcelona’s Camp Nou.
As mentioned earlier, Barcelona have been in great form, of late, notably securing a shock 5-1 win over arch-rivals Real Madrid last weekend – which prompted Los Blancos to relieve Julen Lopetegui of his duties as head coach.
The Spanish champions were simply unstoppable with Luis Suarez scoring a hat-trick while Philipe Coutinho and Arturo Vidal also chipped in with a goal each.
Cultural Leonesa, on the other hand, belong to the third tier of the Spanish footballing division. Leonesa took full advantage of an easy draw against Lorca FC to reach this stage of the contest. They secured a 3-0 win over the fourth-division outfit but will be wary of Barcelona’s quality and thus, take a cautious approach as they aim to pull off a huge upset this week.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over both the sides ahead of their first-leg encounter at the Estadio Reino de Leon this week.
Team news & tactics
Cultural Leonesa’s 34-year-old manager Victor Cea is unlikely to make a host of changes to the side that secured a 3-1 win over Inter de Madrid last weekend. Thus, Jorge Palatsi will be the man in between the sticks, screened by a defensive back-four.
Jesus Bernal will shift over to his preferred right-back position, replacing Saul Gonzalez while Dionicio Escalante starts on the opposite flank. 22-year-old defender Jose Manuel Alonso will swap Bernal as the central defender alongside Ivan Garrido, who has been an ever-present figure in the Leonisa side this season.
Club captain Antonio Martinez will be deployed at the base of Leonesa’s 4-2-3-1. The 28-year-old Martinez is a product of the Real Madrid youth setup and his ability to break up play in midfield could be crucial this weekend. He will partner Eneko Capilla in midfield, whose athleticism will make him a vital figure in Leonesa’s pressing unit.
Star forward Aridane will be tasked with the responsibility of leading the Leonesa attack this week. The 31-year-old has netted four goals this season and will be partnered by the wide-duo of Hugo Rodriguez and Jorge Ortiz, who will replace Zelu on the right flank.
Sergio Marcos will be deployed as the lone attacking midfielder although he is unlikely to spend most of his time tracking back as Barcelona dominate the proceedings.
Probable lineup(4-2-3-1): Palatsi; Bernal, Garrido, Alonso, Escalante; Capilla, Martinez; Rodriguez, Marcos, Zelu; Aridane.
Ernesto Valverde will look to ring in the changes this week, following a strenuous 5-1 triumph over Real Madrid on the weekend. The Spanish mastermind called up six youth team players to the senior squad on Monday and some of them could be in line to feature against Leonesa.
Jesper Cillessen has been struggling with illness, of late and has missed Monday’s training session. Thus, Valverde could opt for youngster Inaki Pena in goal this week. Jorge Cuenca, Chumi and Juan Miranda all expected to start as well, after being called up to the senior team on Monday.
Chumi and Cuenca will pair up as central defenders while Miranda will be deployed as the left-back. Nelson Semedo could be slotted in as the right-back as his experience could be valuable in a backline which is chock-full of youthful exuberance.
Youngster Riqui Puig has raised a lot of eyebrows in the Barcelona training camp this season and could feature in midfield. He will partner Arturo Vidal and Denis Suarez at the base of Barcelona’s 4-3-3. Carles Alena and Sergi Samper will also be hoping for a chance, however.
Malcom is expected to make a rare start on the right-flank while Ousmane Dembele will likely start after appearing as a substitute against Real Madrid. With no Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Paco Alcacer, Barcelona could deploy Munir El Haddadi as the central striker this week.
Probable lineup(4-3-3): Pena; Semedo, Chumi, Cuenca; Miranda; Puig, Vidal, Suarez; Malcom, El Haddadi, Dembele.
- These two teams have met only twice before with Barcelona winning both encounters with an aggregate of 7-0.
- FC Barcelona and Cultural Leonesa share a club legend from the past in the form of striker Cesar Rodriguez, who helped Barcelona win five LaLiga titles(44/45, 47/48, 48/49; 51/52 and 52/53)
- Barcelona have scored 28 goals in the league this season, exactly the double of second-placed Alaves.
- Barcelona have kept only one clean sheet in their last eight matches in all competitions.
- Cultural Leonesa are unbeaten in their last six games in all competitions.
Player to watch
Malcom has endured a difficult time after arriving from Bordeaux in a €41 million deal in the summer. The Brazilian sensation has amassed only two appearances in the league this term, largely due to Ousmane Dembele and Rafinha’s improved performances.
However, the 21-year-old will be presented with a rare opportunity to shine this week against Cultural Leonesa. And it’s probably fair to acknowledge that he will play a key role as well.
His sheer pace and dynamism coupled with his tendency to drift into central areas of the pitch in order to create chances could provide a myriad of trouble for the Leonisa backline, making him one of the players worth looking forward to this week.
Leonesa 0:4 Barcelona
There is a gulf of difference in quality between the two sides, hence the prediction is a no-brainer. Barcelona are coming on the back of a three-game winning run, during which they have looked practically unbeatable. Thus, we would expect the Blaugrana to secure a thumping 4-0 win over the third-tier Spanish outfit.