No rest for the wicked as we again suit up for our last calendar fixture of 2010, Copa del Rey.
The game is scheduled for a 8pm kick off Tuesday night local time at Camp Nou. The Copa del Rey is often one of those competitions that gets put on the back-burner, but I personally don’t mind it as it often gives us a chance to see some of the kids get serious minutes and also a rest for the senior guys. I suspect this first leg of the round of 16 will be no different.
You may remember Barça actually got knocked out of this competition last year at this stage – losing to eventual winners Sevilla on away goals (2-2). For those that don’t know much about this competition, Barça have the most wins of this Copa (25) while Bilbao are behind with 24. Last year also saw Alcorcón defeat Real Madrid 4-1 in what was a comical result in the round of 32.
As mentioned before, expect to see serious game time given to our kids (either as starts or from the bench) Although this is indeed a tricky draw, particularly as the first leg is home – Will Pep give game time to Xavi, Messi and co? Pep himself stating that “We need to get a good result because it will be difficult if we have to win the series in San Mames.” Enough said.
My personal feeling is we will see a mixed bag. Expect starts given to Mascherano, Pinto, Bojan and Adriano – but no doubt the heavy artillery will be on the bench if needed.
Bilbao are without Llorente (pulled muscle), a player who is an absolute goal machine and the focal point for everything bilbao, so that’s good news for us. He is also a player that has been linked with us in recent times – though I suspect we will never sign him. Bilbao are a tough side, no question, and you can bet the Basque based club will do everything they can to at least earn a draw away from home. I’ll be interested to see the formation they start with – they often play themselves a 4-3-3 with Javi Martinez being a main man in midfield for them.
As for us, I think we will still employ the 4-3-3. Don’t ask me why but I think this won’t be an easy game at all. I’m feeling a 3-1 scoreline, but it won’t be comprehensive nor pretty.
Possible Starting Lineups:
Barça: Pinto, Alves, Pique, Abidal, Maxwell, Mascherano, Adriano, Thiago, Keita, Pedro, Bojan
Bilbao: Iraizoz, Ustaritz, Ocio, Castillo, Iraola, Orbáiz, Iturraspe, Martínez, Gurpegui, Gabilondo, López, Muniain
Prediction: Barça 3 Bilbao 1
Just quickly: It has been announced that Bojan has agreed to a contract extension, meaning he is contracted to 2015 and his buyout raised to 100€ million.