Xavi, Iniesta, Piqué and Pedro have been rested for tomorrow night’s return game at Camp Nou with Cordoba in the Copa del Rey last 16. With a quarter final against Malaga as the reward Barça have named a squad of 19 to defend the two goal advantage from the first leg four weeks ago, with Sergi Roberto as the only player called up from the B team.
Adriano is back in the squad after training with the group but there is still no place for Isaac Cuenca who is now very close to his comeback. Jordi Roura will again be in charge of the team while Tito Vilanova visits a specialist in New York. Given the relative simplicity of the task at hand and the fact we have a tough league game at Malaga on Sunday it seems obvious that this should be a game for the not-so-regulars. It would have been great to see a chance for more B team youngsters but with our larger squad this year, combined with relatively few injury problems right now, means we have plenty of first team players in need of playing time.
In the first leg Tito Vilanova selected a strong starting XI and Cordoba’s performance demonstrated he was correct to do so. In today’s lunchtime press conference Jordi Roura declareded that Barça would give the game absolute seriousness while refusing to answer a direct question on whether Messi would be in the starting team, correctly stating that Barça never give this type of information, diplomatically saying “we’ll decide tomorrow.”
However, looking at the squad list the team would appear to pick itself. Pinto will no doubt start in goal while a back four of Montoya, Bartrá, Mascherano and Adriano looks likely. Song should get the defensive midfield role and the only doubt for me is whether Dos Santos or Sergi Roberto get to partner Thiago in midfield. Up front Villa, Alexis and Tello should get the chance to sharpen up their finishing.
Finally, there are reports today of the beginnings of new contract negotiations for Victor Valdés. After his comments on January 3 that “The goalkeeping position at Barça is difficult and I don’t discard discovering other cultures and countries”, it seems Sandro Rosell wants to end any speculation quickly. He might also move soon to improve Sergio Busquets’ contract. Busquets currently has a release clause of €80 million and if Thailand’s coach Winfried Schaefer considers Busquets the best player on the planet then who knows how much Florentino Perez might be prepared to offer!
Barça squad vs Cordoba: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Montoya, Bartrá, Mascherano, Puyol, Adriano, Alba, Song, Dos Santos, Busquets, Thiago, Sergi Roberto, Fabregas, Tello, Messi, Alexis, Villa.
Barça: Pinto; Montoya, Bartrá, Mascherano, Adriano; Sergi Roberto, Song, Thiago; Tello, Villa, Alexis.
Cordoba: Saizar; Fernandez, Armando, Alberto Aguilar, Fuentes; Lopez Garai, Caballero; Lopez Silva, Dubarbier; Abel Gomez, Patiño.
Prediction: Barça 3 Cordoba 1
Date: Thursday 10 January 2013. Kick off 9.30 pm local time.