Barcelona vs. Alaves: Previewing What to Expect in Copa Del Rey
Barcelona will play host to segunda side Alaves Wednesday afternoon in the return leg of Copa del Rey action. However, this match may be mere consolation.
The Catalan giants won convincingly on the road against Alaves a few weeks ago (via Goal). The score, and aggregate, favors Barcelona 3-0. With that being said, La Blaugrana will certainly look to continue their dominant run of recent weeks.
The offense is scoring plenty of goals, the defense finally looks capable, and even Victor Valdes is performing.
With so many games left, many can see this match as a chance to just enjoy a Barcelona win, as the reigning Copa del Rey champions are basically already in the next round.
Alaves can flip the world upside down if they are able to save themselves from the daunting 3-0 aggregate score that currently stands. But, that outcome does seem unlikely.
Every cup matters, some more than others, especially when you are the reigning champions. Barcelona will not go easy on Alaves, and I do not believe Alaves would want them to.
Now, let us take a look at what we should be expecting in the return leg at the Camp Nou.
Alaves Will Play with Nothing to Lose
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The segunda side has one thing in their favor: no pressure. The world expects them to lose mightily to Barcelona, and many are already counting the club out altogether.
Alaves will be able to enter the game playing without fear because no matter how bad the outcome, it was already expected. The world would not bat an eyelash were Barcelona to win 5-0. But this is a dangerous luxury to have.
This means that the reigning champions will have to be even more composed. A fearless team is a dangerous team. They will look for any chance to give Barcelona trouble, and the Catalans must be ready.
Quite simply, the fearless factor could either see Barcelona embarrass Alaves, or the small side shock the world.
Now, let us be honest, the likelihood of Alaves doing much of anything is scarce. But, they will give Barcelona some bit of trouble during stretches for the game.
With nothing to lose, we should see Alaves go right at Barcelona the way most teams would never dare.
Barcelona Will Play with Mostly Youth Players
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With the tie seemingly wrapped up, this is a huge chance for La Blaugrana to rest their stars. Even more so, this is the perfect game for many youth players to get testing game time.
Barcelona hang their hat on their academy and this was no more evidenced than by Sunday's game. For the first time in history, Barcelona had a full team on the pitch consisting of all La Masia graduates (via Goal).
One clear reason for such success in the academy, is the faith put into the young players.
The majority of Barcelona youth players know that they will get their shot at some point. The main chances given to those players are games just like these.
With that being said, Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova will likely play some big-name youngsters at home to give them the exposure they are deserving.
Expect Gerard Deulofeu, Sergi Roberto, Martin Montoya, Cristian Tello and possibly even Jean-Marie Dongou to play. Thiago is also a likely starter, though calling the midfielder a youth player is far from the truth, even if he is merely 21 years old.
With this game not carrying much in the way of pressure, it is time we just sit back and enjoy the bright futures of some of La Masia's recent graduates. Not every game is do or die. The tie is basically wrapped up and Barcelona will give fans a treat.
Gerard Deulofeu Will Score
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Gerard Deulofeu is, by and large, the jewel of La Masia at this point. He has shown fantastic skill for Barcelona B this season, and is a lock to reach the first team in a very short amount of time.
The winger possesses pace, a great shot, passing ability and more than anything the ability to dribble. Barcelona will definitely be looking to give the 18-year-old as many chances to play that they can.
With all the hype and expectations, Deulofeu will absolutely play, maybe even start, at home against Alaves.
But more important than his playing time, I predict the young star to score at the Camp Nou.
Asking Deulofeu to score is a big thing to do. Yet, it is one major thing the player is known for. To showcase his skill against a segunda side is just what the world needs to see for an early look at what Barcelona may have in the coming years.
David Villa is not not getting any younger, and Deulofeu may just very well be his replacement.
As we watch this game, keep your eyes open for the winger. He will certainly score, and the goal will be of a high class.
How the Game Will Play out
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With Alaves playing with nothing to lose, and Barcelona fielding a youth-heavy team, what should we expect?
With all credit to Alaves, Barcelona should still win this game by more than a single goal. The reigning champions will certainly have a more difficult time without their stars, but the youth players are still on a high level themselves.
Expect to see Alaves pressure high while Barcelona retain possession. It will be interesting to see who La Blaugrana play in Lionel Messi's position. Cesc Fàbregas is the most likely candidate, though Tito Vilanova may look to rest the midfielder with his other stars.
No matter who lines up for Barcelona, goals will be tougher to manage than usual.
I predict that this game will be decided after halftime. Barcelona will win 3-0 again, but only one goal will come before the half.
There are always things that are easy to predict for Barcelona, such as possession and passing statistics. But, the big surprise will hopefully be Martin Montoya scoring in a match he should shine in.
So let's all tune in for this one to see the future stars of Barcelona finish the job of taking the reigning champions through to the next round of the Copa del Rey.
Now to you, the fans. Will Barcelona find this game fairly easy or will Alaves test the Catalans? Who do you expect to be the man of the match?
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