Following the big news of presidential elections this summer Barça return to action tomorrow with a Copa del Rey last sixteen first leg game against Elche at Camp Nou (Thursday 10 pm). Luis Enrique has a full first team squad bar available Thomas Vermaelen so the only Barça B youngster who has a chance of appearing is Munir El-Haddadi who continues training with the big boys.
The obvious interest for the game will be to see how Leo Messi plays, if he’s included in the team, and to see if there is any sort of reaction from the Camp Nou public to the current situation. It seems unlikely there will be much protesting now that elections have been called and Bartomeu’s intelligent call for solidarity behind the team.
Luis Enrique won’t name his 16-man squad for the game until tomorrow but he seems likely to rest some players given that Atlético visit Camp Nou in La liga on Sunday. Ter Stegen seems likely to get another chance to show his ability between the posts while Dani Alves should return at right-back after starting on the bench in Anoeta. Piqué and Bartra could start in central defence while Adriano might get the left-back slot in order to give Alba a rest. In midfield we could see either Sergio Busquets or Javier Mascherano as the holding man, though as both played in Anoeta there could be a surprise such as Rakitic used there. It seems more likely that Rakitic will play further forward with either Rafinha or Sergi Roberto taking the other midfield position. Up front I expect both Messi and Neymar to start while the other forward could be any of Pedro, Munir, Rafinha and Suarez.
Elche visited Camp Nou in the league on the opening day of the season and despite a first half red card for Mascherano Barça won the game 3-0 with two goals from Messi and another from Munir. It was a good start for Luis Enrique in the Barça hot seat; tomorrow he needs another comfortable victory to calm some of the storm at the club. The second leg is next Thursday at the same time. A quarter-final tie against either Atlético or Real Madrid awaits the winner of the tie.
Barça: Ter Stegen; Alves, Bartra, Piqué, Adriano; Rakitic, Mascherano, Rafinha; Munir, Messi, Neymar.
Elche: Tyton; Damian, Lomban, Pelegrin, Edu Albacar; Pasalic, Jose Angel, Mosquera; Rodrigues, Johnathas, Coro.
Prediction: Barça 4 Elche 1
Date: Thursday 8 January 2015. Kick-off 10 pm.