FC Barcelona are set to host Levante on Wednesday in Copa del Rey action after easing to a 4-1 victory in the first leg last week. The Catalans will be looking to book their place in the next round and all signs point to an easy encounter.
In the first meeting it was Cristian Tello who stole the show scoring three goals with Lionel Messi assisting each time. The outcome should be similar at the Camp Nou, but the personnel might be a bit different.
With that being said, let’s take a look at how Barcelona will line up against Levante on Wednesday.
As usual, fans should expect Jose Pinto to remain in goal as he always does in the Copa del Rey. The 38-year-old may not be Victor Valdes, but he still has what it takes to get the job done.
With the tie seemingly already decided, it is likely that Tata Martino will opt to give as many starters a break as possible.
Martin Montoya should return the starting lineup in place as Dani Alves while Adriano will also likely get the nod over Jordi Alba. All four full-backs have been in great form recently, but Martino must continue will his rotational policy.
After sitting out of the club’s previous match, Marc Bartra should be back in the starting XI.
The 23-year-old has arguably been the club’s best defender this season and still needs time to grow. The real question is who will be featuring beside young Bartra.
In the first leg it was captain Carles Puyol who formed the second half of the duo. However, the club recently announced on their official website that he suffered bruising and could miss time.
Since then, the club has also announced that both he and Andres Iniesta have returned to regular training. It is likely that Puyol will be cleared to play, but the best decision would be to allow him more time to recover.
In the end the most likely outcome will be that Gerard Pique will feature alongside Marc Bartra. Their partnership continues to grow and this could be just another game for them to get to know each other even better.
As stated earlier, Andres Iniesta has resumed regular training but it highly unlikely that he will be thrown straight back into action. The tie is basically decided already and the club cannot risk Iniesta at this point.
Sergio Busquets is likely to retain his place in the starting lineup to give the defense cover. Barcelona may have a three-goal advantage heading into the match, but the most important thing will be keeping a clean sheet.
Xavi could certainly use a rest having played a lot of minutes this month so he should start the game on the bench. In that case, Cesc Fabregas should feature in his place, with Sergi Roberto rounding out the Barcelona midfield.
The match against Levante will be once focused on having control. The visitors need to score a lot of goals to get to the next round and Barcelona will have to combat that by using midfielders who can break up play.
Busquets will be as important as ever, but the pace of Sergi Roberto could also prove invaluable.
Having begun last match on the bench it seems only fitting that Cristian Tello will be back in the starting XI on Wednesday. His hat-trick in the first leg has given him plenty of reasons to play from the first whistle and that is exactly what fans should expect.
The second winger spot will likely be a toss-up between Alexis Sanchez and Pedro. Both have been playing at a very high level, yet both could also use a day off.
With Alexis Sanchez arguably the more important of the two it is likely that he will be allowed to start the match on the bench. Pedro is still fighting for his place in the squad and could use minutes against Levante to keep his good run of form going.
Lastly, Lionel Messi will be in his customary false-nine role.
The best decision may be to let the Argentine have the night off, but it is no secret that Messi wants to play every minute of every match.
Messi hasn’t scored a goal for Barcelona since January 16. He has been giving plenty of assists, but he will be wanting to find the back of the net for himself soon. Playing in front of his own fans in a tie that is already decided will give him plenty of chances to put in a big night.
Barring a miracle, Barcelona will be in the next round of the Copa del Rey. They have four road goals in their favor and are protecting their lead at the Camp Nou.
Levante most likely realize that the tie is already over but they won’t go down without a fight. The match will have plenty of intense moments, yet in the end Barcelona will come away comfortable winners.
Expect Messi to find his name on the scoresheet at least once. Tello and Pedro could also provide goals for the Catalans, but Messi will be the headliner on Wednesday.