Just ten days after Barça beat Villarreal 3-2 in La Liga Marcelino Garcia Toral’s team return to Camp Nou for the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final (Wednesday 8 pm). Luis Enrique Martinez has all his key players available and Barça will be looking for a healthy lead to take to Villarreal for the second leg on March 4.
With nine wins on the trot there is plenty of reason for optimism, while the 2-5 win at San Mames demonstrated there was truth to Luis Enrique’s claim that the players had trained at their best level of the season last week. The cup-tie now offers the Barça coach his first chance of reaching a final and he seems likely to start with his strongest XI.
The fact that the players will have had less than 72 hours rest since the victory over Athletic may cause Lucho to use fresh legs and there are plenty of reasons to give the likes of Marc Bartra, Rafinha and Pedro a start tomorrow. However, the most probable changes to Sunday’s team will be Marc-Andre Ter Stegen returning as cup goalkeeper and Javier Mascherano and Andrés Iniesta coming back in place of Jeremy Mathieu and Xavi Hernández. This would mean the same XI of Ter Stegen, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Suárez and Neymar that beat Atlético at the Calderón in the last round.
It was clear in the recent league meeting that Villarreal will be no push-overs. Marcelino rested several keys players in his team’s 2-0 victory over Granada at the weekend which suggests he could play a very similar line-up to the one that lost here in the league.
Finally, instead of my usual prediction I will now be making a bet with Willian Hill. Sometimes it will be the correct score but I may also go for other options like first goalscorer, half-time/full-time result, etc.
Barça: Ter Stegen: Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar.
Villarreal: Asenjo; Mario, Musacchio, V.Ruiz, J.Costa; Johnathan dos Santos, Bruno, Pina, Cheryshev; Vietto, Giovani dos Santos.
My bet: Correct score – Barça 2 Villarreal 0 (current odds 8.00) – The best odds for soccer betting are at William Hill
Date: Wednesday 11 February 2015. Kick-off 8 pm local time.