FC Barcelona will be hoping to get back to winning ways when they face UE Cornella in the Copa Del Rey Round of 16 on Thursday.

Barcelona’s 3-2 defeat to Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Supercopa de Espana did not go all too well among fans. Although the club has done reasonably well to recover from their slow start to the campaign, there is much to improve upon and the pressure on Ronald Koeman is still immense.

That pressure could escalate in the event of another mishap in their upcoming Round of 32 Copa Del Rey tie against Cornella on Thursday as Barcelona travel to Camp Municipal de Cornella – the same stadium where the third division Spanish outfit produced one of the biggest upsets of the season by beating Atletico Madrid in the previous round.

Barcelona are definitely hoping to avoid such a result, although Koeman should also keep one eye on the important league fixture against Elche on the weekend – a game they simply need to win if they are to maintain pressure on league leaders Atletico Madrid and arch-rivals Real Madrid.

Cornella, on the other hand, may have been a little unlucky to have been drawn against the Catalan giants, so soon after their extraordinary win over Atleti. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over their potential chances of causing yet another upset against Barcelona this midweek.

Team News & Tactics

Cornella

Aside from defender Adrian Jimenez, Cornella head coach Guillermo Fernandez has no real injury-related absentees to deal with heading into this game. It should give him the privilege of preparing a proper game-plan without having to make any unnecessary adjustments to his first-team. However, there might be changes from the side that secured a narrow victory over Atletico Madrid.

Cornella usually play with a four-man backline so Fernandez could be tempted to return to his usual setup given the fact Barcelona also prefer a generic 4-2-3-1. The absence of Jimenez could see Carlos Garcia and Pol Moreno form the central defensive partnership, with additional support from the two full-backs in Ivan Guzman and Rulo Prieto.

In midfield, Borja Garcia should operate alongside Agus Medina in the double pivot, though the former’s versatility should allow him to occasionally drop in between the two centre-back, thus creating a situational 5-2-3.

In that case, the attacking midfielder Albert Dorca could join Medina in midfield, thus acting as the link between the three attacking players in Eloy Gila, Max Marcet and Javier Ontiveros, who is likely to spearhead the Cornella attack.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Juan; Guzman, Garcia, Moreno, Prieto; Garcia, Medina; Gila, Dorca, Marcet; Ontiveros

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FC Barcelona

Despite Cornella pulling off a major upset against Atletico Madrid in the last round, Ronald Koeman could see this game as an opportunity to rest a host of his star players. Neto, for one, could get a rare starting place in goal, ahead of Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The Brazilian will be hoping to prove a point, after being reportedly denied a loan move away from Camp Nou.

There could be a selection dilemma for Koeman in the four-man backline. In the right-back slot, the Dutchman could be tempted to go with Oscar Mingueza as he looks to keep Sergino Dest fresh ahead of the Elche fixture while Sergi Roberto still remains out. It could, thus, serve as an ideal opportunity for Mingueza to make yet another impression in the first-team – this time with his versatility.

More defensive changes to the side should see Samuel Umtiti replacing Clement Lenglet at the heart of the Barcelona defence while Junior Firpo should also come in at the expense of Jordi Alba. The young left-back will be hoping to make an impression with his speed and offensive prowess, which could be useful in breaking down the Cornella defence that is likely to defend in deep blocks.

In midfield, Riqui Puig looks guaranteed to start alongside Miralem Pjanic in the double pivot. It will be interesting to see whether the youngster can break the shackles of the opposing defence with his silky footwork and brilliant passing in the middle third of the pitch. He should receive additional support from Ilaix Moriba, who is hoping to make his debut.

In fact, it won’t be surprising to see Puig and Moriba acting as the two attacking midfielders, with Pjanic operating in the number six slot. It should bode well for the wide attackers in Francisco Trincao and Antoine Griezmann as well as the primary centre forward in Martin Braithwaite.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1):  Neto; Mingueza, Araujo, Umtiti, Junior; Pjanic, Puig; Trincao, Moriba, Griezmann; Braithwaite

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Key Stats

  • UE Cornella have kept a clean sheet in their last three Copa Del Rey matches, even though only two teams have conceded more goals in their league this season.
  • Barcelona’s first team never played an official fixture against Cornella in the history of La Liga and the Copa del Rey. But, Cornella are currently nearly equal with two wins in eight matches with Barcelona B, who have secured three victories against the Verdiblancos.
  • There have been under 2.5 goals scored in 6 of UE Cornella‘s last 7 games in the Copa Del Rey.
  • Cornella have failed to score in 4 of their last 6 matches, while losing 3 of their last 5 games as well.
  • Barcelona have scored more goals than any other team in La Liga this season (37), with Lionel Messi emerging as their top scorer with 11 goals.

Player to Watch

Riqui Puig

Riqui Puig could be loaned out in January. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Riqui Puig will be on show this midweek. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

This could be an exciting game to watch for Barcelona fans, who are hoping to see some of the club’s talented pool of youngsters to feature in the first-team. Among them, Riqui Puig has to be the most notable one, having made a huge impression with his cameos from the bench.

A central midfielder by trade, Puig is blessed with unmatched technical prowess. His excellent close control and ability to drift past opposing defenders also makes him a capable carrier of the ball – something that could be useful for Barcelona against a Cornella defence this midweek.

In addition, Puig’s combination play with other youngsters like Francisco Trincao, Ilaix Moriba and perhaps even Matheus Fernandes is something worth keeping an eye on, in this exciting fixture.

Prediction

Cornella 0-2 FC Barcelona

Cornella have impressed the onlookers with their incredible defensive work-rate and determination in the last round against Atletico Madrid. However, replicate that performance against the mighty Barcelona side could be too big an ask for the third division outfit, who have not performed all too well in the league recently.

In fact, Cornella were beaten by Barcelona B exactly a month ago and considering the perfect mix of youth and experience that the Catalan giants have in their team at the moment, it won’t be surprising to see the visitors clinching a comfortable 2-0 victory in this one.

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