Barça face Villarreal at El Madrigal tomorrow evening (Wednesday 8 pm) in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg with Luis Enrique looking for his first final as first team coach. A 3-1 advantage from the first leg three weeks ago makes Barça firm favourites to go through to the final on May 30 against the winner of the other semi-final between Espanyol and Athletic.
Villarreal will be enemies tomorrow but on Sunday they did Barça a big favour by grabbing a 1-1 draw at the Bernabéu which leaves Madrid with just a two-point advantage in the title race and, with a Camp Nou Clásico still to come, effectively puts the league back in Barça’s hands. Entering March it is perhaps reasonable that culés are beginning to dream of a possible treble though there is still a long way to go to achieve that goal.
Having played on Thursday in the Europa League before Sunday’s draw with Madrid there might be some hope that our opponents will be affected by the fixture load for tomorrow’s game. However, coach Marcelino rested various players from his starting XI at the Bernabéu including Musacchio, Ruiz, Johnathan dos Santos, Trigueros, Cheryshev and Vietto so he will have plenty of fresh legs against Barça.
Luis Enriqué has everybody available except the injured Thomas Vermaelen, and Munir El-Haddadi from Barça B has been training again with the first team. Despite the two-goal lead from the first game the Barça coach will surely play a strong XI with little intention of taking unnecessary risks. Ter Stegen, Piqué, Busquets and Iniesta all look likely to return to the starting line-up while Lucho’s main dilemma lies with whether or not to play Mascherano and Suárez who are both a yellow card away from missing the final.
Barça are back to winning ways after the slip-up against Malaga but the performance at Granada on Saturday was below the level we have come to expect. We may have beaten Villarreal three times already this season but they have proved to be one of the toughest opponents in La Liga. We should never forget our 4-0 defeat to Getafe in 2007 after a 5-2 first leg win in the cup semi-finals which showed how these cup-ties are rarely over after the first 90 minutes.
Villarreal: Asenjo; Mario, Musacchio, Ruiz, Costa; Johnathan dos Santos, Pina, Trigueros, Cheryshev; Vietto, Giovani dos Santos.
Barça: Ter Stegen; Alves, Piqué, Mathieu, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar.
My bet: correct score – Villarreal 1 Barça 1 (current odds: 9.00) The best odds for soccer betting are at William Hill.
Date: Wednesday 4 March 2015. Kick-off 8 pm local time.