Barça defend a four-goal lead in tomorrow night’s Copa del Rey last 16 2nd leg game at Getafe with a quarter-final against Rayo Vallecano or Levante at stake. Tata Martino has given a rest to Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets while Andrés Iniesta has still not recovered from the knock on the knee that saw him substituted at half-time against Atlético Madrid on Saturday, but Gerard Piqué has recovered after two days training apart and has been included in Martino’s 18-man list for the game.
Despite the four-goal advantage from the first leg, memories of the 4-0 defeat at the Coliseum in the 2007 Copa del Rey semi-final should serve as a warning that the job is not done yet. We should also remember that Getafe scored twice in fifteen minutes when the teams met before Christmas before Barça hit five to win 2-5. Having played Getafe twice in the last four weeks there is not too much more to say about our opponents. Luis Garcia Plaza ‘s men lost 0-1 at home to Rayo Vallecano at the weekend which was their fourth defeat on the trot. In fact they haven’t taken a point in La Liga since a 1-0 win over Levante at the end of November which has seen them slip from seventh in the table to eleventh. They are now closer to the relegation zone than to the European places and tomorrow, more than dreaming of a miraculous comeback, Plaza will surely be looking for a good performance to boost confidence for the league.
Given the lead from the first leg Martino will also be thinking about La Liga when he names tomorrow’s team. The big question will be whether Leo Messi starts the game or whether Martino will again be thinking to use him as a substitute. Whatever the case there are bound to be changes to the starting XI with likely appearances for the likes of Alex Song, Sergi Roberto, Adriano, Marc Bartra and Neymar while Pinto seems sure to return in goal.
At the half-way stage of the league season Martino deserves credit for the job done so far. It was never going to be easy coming in as a relative unknown just before the start of the season, in difficult circumstances due to Tito Vilanova’s illness. Despite the odd question over occasional more conservative tactics and the drop in form when the squad was stretched by injuries that led to defeats in Amsterdam and Bilbao, the general impression is very positive. His decision to leave both Messi and Neymar on the bench for Saturday’s game at Atlético was especially noteworthy. We all want to see Messi back but Martino has demonstrated that he is thinking about Messi’s long-term prospects and hopefully as a consequence the player will not suffer any set-backs in the coming games. Martino has also shown that he values form over names which sends out an excellent message to all members of the first-team squad that a place in the team needs to be won but you will be valued on your merits and not on your reputation.
Barça’s 18-man squad: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Montoya, Piqué, Bartra, Mascherano, Puyol, Adriano, Song, Xavi, Sergi Roberto, Fabregas, Pedro, Alexis, Messi, Neymar, Tello.
Getafe: Codina; Arroyo, Alexis, Rafa, Roberto Lago; Lacen, Juan Rodríguez; Lafita, Sarabia, Diego Castro; Ciprian.
Barça: Pinto; Montoya, Bartra, Puyol, Adriano; Xavi, Song, Sergi Roberto; Tello, Fabregas, Neymar.
Prediction: Getafe 1 Barça 2
Date: Thursday 16 January 2014. Kick-off 10 pm local time.