The Copa del Rey is back tomorrow night with what should be a relatively simple second leg game against Alaves at Camp Nou. Having won 0-3 at Mendizorroza in the first leg Tito Vilanova has the luxury of being able to rest Valdés, Iniesta, Piqué, Busquets, Alba, Xavi and Leo Messi, though he has said that out of respect for Alaves and for the fans the team will be competitive and will treat the game seriously. The sixteen-man squad for the game is made up of the other eleven fit first-team players which includes David Villa, plus Oier Olazabal, Carles Planas, Sergi Roberto, Gerard Deulofeu and Cristian Tello.
With so much talk about Messi’s chances of beating Gerd Muller’s record of 85 goals in a year, the fact that he has been left out of tomorrow’s game is noteworthy. Messi has always claimed that he doesn’t think about personal records and awards or selling football equipment, and I’m sure he has accepted the decision as being completely normal. Messi needs his rest like anybody else and he will be hungrier as a result for Saturday’s league game against Athletic. Any impression that he gets preferential treatment will be dispelled so the decision should be applauded.
The main attraction of tomorrow’s game is the chance to see some of the youngsters. The 21-year-old Planas has been a promising prospect for some time now. He joined the club at the age of ten and has progressed through the ranks until being promoted to the B team in 2009. Since then he has played 63 times for Barça B mainly as a left back though with the recent rise of Alejandro Grimaldo in that position, this season has seen him converted into a central defender. I imagine Tito will give him a debut tomorrow but whether he plays at left back or at centre back may depend on whether Adriano is risked from the start given his recent muscular problems.
I’m also hoping that Deulofeu gets a chance from the start tomorrow. His recent form for the B team has been very good and his two goals against Racing Santander on Sunday took his season’s total to nine in twelve games which equals his total goals scored last season (9 in 34 appearances). In case you missed it check out his second goal against Racing.
Alaves have little hope of pulling back three goals and I feel their intention will be not to be humiliated. There is the chance for 19-year-old goalkeeper Sergio Herrera to make a name for himself. Normally the third-choice keeper, Herrera is set to get his chance due to injuries to both senior keepers Urtzi Iturrioz and Miguel.
Barça’s 16-man squad: Pinto, Oier, Montoya, Puyol, Mascherano, Planas, Adriano, Song, Dos Santos, Sergi Roberto, Thiago, Fabregas, Pedro, Deulofeu, Villa, Tello.
Possible starting XIs:
Barça: Pinto; Montoya, Puyol, Mascherano, Planas; Sergi Roberto, Song, Dos Santos; Deulofeu, Villa, Tello.
Alaves: Herrera; Oscar Rubio, Javi Hernández, Agustín, Manu García; Miki, Jaume Delgado; Guzman, Jonan García, Luismi; Viguera
My prediction: Barça 4 Alaves 0
Date: Wednesday 28 November 2012. Kick Off 9.30 pm (local time)