Copa Del Rey: Previewing Alaves vs. Barcelona and Alcoyano vs. Real Madrid
The bigwigs of La Liga get a break from league and European action this week as Real Madrid and Barcelona both face up to lower league opposition in the Copa del Rey.
Last season's Copa final saw Barcelona win 3-0 against Athletic Bilbao, in which was Barça's third final in four years. 2011 of course saw Real defeat Barcelona in the first El Clasico final since 1990.
On Tuesday, Barcelona will travel to Segunda B Group 2 side Alaves, who only a decade ago were contesting the UEFA Cup Final, while Real Madrid will face Segunda B Group 3 outfit Alcoyano, also away.
These are first leg fixtures of the round of 16, with both fixtures having a second leg to be played at the home of the Primera Liga clubs.
Alaves vs. Barcelona
Barcelona sit top of La Primera Division, and Alaves sit top of their own group as they search for promotion back into the top two tiers of Spanish football.
Alaves have won eight of their 10 games in the league so far, conceding just four goals in the process. Their miserly defence will very much need to be at their best to keep out the Catalan side, who themselves have scored 29 times in just nine games.
However, Barça have also found defending a slight problem this term away from the Nou Camp—conceding eight goals in five games playing away.
How will Barcelona fare against Alaves?
A small chink of light, perhaps, for Alaves but they will need every ounce of luck and positivity they can muster if they are to make it through the match still in the competition against one of the world's best teams.
It is expected that Tito Vilanova will hand chances to several of his squad members who have not received as many competitive minutes as they would have liked so far this season. With the new signing, players like Alex Song are in line to start as well as the likes of goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto and forward David Villa.
Youngsters Cristian Tello, Marc Bartra and Jonathon Dos Santos could all also figure.
Prediction: Alaves will have to hope everything goes their way to even have a chance at taking the tie into the second leg. It would be a surprise if they manage more than 30 percent possession during the course of the game—and Barcelona simply have too much to trouble a Segunda B side. Alaves 0-6 Barcelona.
Alcoyano vs. Real Madrid
Making the trip of the radius of Spain, Real Madrid will face Alcoyano, both teams who have aspirations of leading their respective leagues in which they currently trail the leaders by a handful of points.
Real languish fourth in La Liga, seven points off the pace, whilst the Valencian side Alcoyano are third in Segunda B Group 3, four points off the top.
Alcoyano will come into the match in superb form; however, having won five league games on the bounce he needs to keep clean sheets in the last three matches.
...And how will Real Madrid get on?
That might come in especially important—Real have scored 16 in their last five league matches, winning four and drawing just once with Barcelona in the mean time.
Jose Mourinho might be another manager who opts to change around his playing staff, with Jose Callejon, Kaka, Gonzalo Higuain and Antonio Adan all hoping for starts.
Prediction: Real Madrid will be incredibly focused on not letting another Copa del Rey upset take place—even in just the first leg—after the infamous Alcorcon thrashing of 2009. Then, the lower-league side beat a Madrid team containing the likes of Guti, Raul, Rafael van der Vaart and Jerzy Dudek by 4-0. It won't happen again.
Alcoyano 1-5 Real Madrid.
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