Barça go into tomorrow night’s Copa del Rey semi-final second leg against Almeria with a seemingly insurmountable 5-0 lead from the first game last week at Camp Nou. However, there is no sign of complacency from Pep Guardiola who has named the entire first team squad for the trip to Andalucia including the injured Puyol, Jeffren and Iniesta. In the quarter-final against Betis we also defended a five-goal advantage but Guardiola fielded a team which included Piqué, Xavi and Messi and with no B-team youngsters despite the handsome advantage. Tomorrow we will probably see something similar with a lot of the “second string” first team players such as Milito, Bojan, Keita, Afellay in the starting XI but with the injuries to Puyol and Iniesta we can expect to see Piqué and Xavi start again. Messi could start on the bench this time if Pep can contain him but if he does we’ll probably see Pedro or Villa come in to form a striking trio with Bojan and Afellay. With only 17 first team players fit Nolito and Thiago have been added to the squad for the game though one of these two will probably be the one left out when the final 18 are announced for the game.
There’s not a lot more to say about Almeria. We’ve already beaten them 0-8 and 5-0 so far this season and they are probably sick of the sight of us. However, strange things happen in cup football and Betis certainly made us sit up and take notice in the quarter-final second leg with two goals in the first few minutes. It would be nice if Almeria could make a game of it like Betis did but there can be few who can seriously give them any chance at all of going through. Let’s just hope nobody gets injured, Puyol and Iniesta should both be back very soon, but with the Arsenal game just two weeks away we don’t want to be losing anybody now.
Barça’s 19-man squad: Pinto, Valdés, Alves, Adriano, Piqué, Milito, Abidal, Maxwell, Sergio Busquets, Mascherano, Xavi, Keita, Thiago, Pedro, Afellay, Bojan, Messi, Villa, Nolito.
Possible starting XI: Pinto; Adriano, Piqué, Milito, Maxwell; Xavi, Mascherano, Keita; Pedro, Bojan, Afellay.
My prediction: Almeria 1 Barça 2