Pep Guardiola has named the 18 first team players at his disposal plus Marc Bartra for the trip to Seville where tomorrow night (kick off 10pm local time) we face Betis in the Copa del Rey quarter final second leg. Two players miss the game through injury: Dani Alves is out for ten days after coming off in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Malaga while Carles Puyol is also rested as he is nursing a sore knee, though on the positive side Leo Messi has got over a slight fever and is included in the squad.
Of course it should be a simple task to reach the semi-final as we took a commanding 5-0 lead from the first game at Camp Nou last Wednesday. For this reason we can expect to see a lot of changes for the game, Ibrahim Afellay should get his first start and it will be interesting to see where Guardiola decides to play him though my money says he’ll play on the left of attack. In defence we can also expect to see a start for Gabi Milito who has decided to stay at the club after all. It was widely reported that he had taken a decision to join Malaga in the hope that he would get more playing minutes and therefore help his chances of being chosen for Argentina who are hosting this summer’s Copa America. Milito’s decision to stay will be a serious boost for Guardiola as we are looking somewhat short of central defenders despite the crop of promising youngsters coming through. Milito may find he doesn’t get as many playing minutes now but he will now have the chance to play in some pretty massive matches in the next few months which is what a player of his calibre deserves. Who knows, he may be rewarded by a start in the Champions League final at Wembley on May 28.
Betis left a good impression after the first leg despite the heavy defeat, they came out to play football and it seems sure that coach Pepe Mel will send his team out to attack. While the comeback may seem practically impossible an early goal from Betis would certainly raise the temperature of the game. Strikers Jorge Molina and especially Ruben Castro gave our defence a few problems at Camp Nou and we can expect to see more of these two tomorrow. I have no doubt that we will be playing in the semi-finals, however, given the big lead from the first game and the fact we are sure to play a weaker line-up I won’t be at all surprised if we lose on the night and thus bring an end to our 28-match unbeaten run.
Barça’s 19-man squad: Valdés, Pinto, Adriano, Piqué, Bartra, Milito, Abidal, Maxwell, Mascherano, Busquets, Xavi, Keita, Iniesta, Afellay, Pedro, Messi, Bojan, Villa, Jeffren.
Possible starting XI: Pinto; Adriano, Bartra, Milito, Maxwell; Busquets, Mascherano, Keita; Jeffren, Bojan, Afellay.
My prediction Betis 2 Barça 1