Tata Martino has rested Gerard Piqué and Sergio Busquets for tomorrow evening’s Copa del Rey return match with Cartagena while Xavi Hernández has been ruled out with a soleus muscle injury in his right leg. Barça’s 1-4 victory from the first leg leaves practically no hope whatsoever for Cartagena to qualify – in fact, after a quick look on-line, I couldn’t find one bookmaker who has even bothered to offer odds on which team will go through.
Unfortunately, given Barça’s first-leg advantage, this is the sort of game over a two-leg tie that causes the Copa del Rey to lose prestige. Of course it could be a little more exciting if Martino had decided to promote a couple of youngsters from Barça B but the Argentinian coach’s 16-man list for tomorrow’s game is made up entirely of first team players.
At least we should almost certainly see a start for Sergi Roberto after his impressive performances in the first leg at Cartagena and in the Champions League victory over Celtic. Roberto has the incredibly difficult task of breaking into Barça’s midfield and Martino must give him every chance to continue developing as a player. A possible lineup for tomorrow could be Pinto again in goal, Montoya, Bartra, Mascherano and Adriano in defence, Song and Fabregas with Sergi Roberto in midfield and a front three of Pedro, Neymar and Tello.
Barça’s 16-man squad: Pinto, Oier, Montoya, Bartra, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano, Alba, Song, Sergi Roberto, Fabregas, Iniesta, Pedro, Alexis, Neymar, Tello.
Barça: Pinto; Montoya, Bartra, Mascherano, Adriano; Fabregas, Song, Sergi Roberto; Pedro, Neymar, Tello.
Cartagena: Limones; Dani Ruiz, Astrain, Mariano Sánchez, Zurdo; Marcos Rodríguez, Carlos David; Antoñito, Megias, Fede; Fernando,
Prediction: Barça 4 Cartagena 0.
Date: Tuesday 17 December 2013. Kick off 10 pm local time.