Barcelona are set to host Basque side Real Sociedad on Wednesday in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie. With a spot in the final on the line, you can expect that Tata Martino will be putting his best lineup on the field, looking to win big at home.
La Real will be no easy test for the Catalans. Antoine Griezmann and Carlos Vela lead a very lethal attacking force while Inigo Martinez heads up what is one of the strongest defensive units in all of Spain.
La Blaugrana will have to be at their best and will need to keep a close watch on the counterattack. Martino cannot take any chances; the best players need to be on the field.
With that being said, let’s take a look at how FC Barcelona should be lining up at the Camp Nou.
As is custom in the Copa del Rey, Jose Pinto will again feature in goal for Barcelona. The 38-year-old has been in decent form this season, but he could have a long night with the likes of Griezmann and Vela running at him.
Dani Alves now looks to be back to his normal self and should be in the starting lineup. Though he offers a lot going forward, the Brazilian will have to be as cautious as ever as he cannot afford to be caught on the counter.
On the other side of the defense, Martino could go with either Adriano or Jordi Alba. In this case, Alba’s speed could prove very useful in locking down Vela, meaning the Catalan left-back should also be in the lineup.
Barcelona cannot afford to make any mistakes in defense, especially after suffering a disappointing loss to Valencia a few days ago. Martino really has no other choice than to start Gerard Pique alongside Marc Bartra to ensure defensive security.
In all honesty, the defense has not looked well lately. Too many mistakes have happened and the back line has got to get things back together. Keeping La Real at bay will not be easy.
Though Alex Song has seen a good bit of minutes in the Copa del Rey, there is no chance he starts on Wednesday. Sergio Busquets is needed more than ever and will be one of the most important players for Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
Fans should also count on seeing Andres Iniesta in the starting lineup. The Spanish international has been phenomenal this season, and the offensive unit just doesn’t look as strong with him on the bench.
Iniesta will provide the creative link between the midfielders and the forwards and could be one of the keys to a Barcelona victory. His ability to create space can open up holes in the defense, and that is invaluable against a side like Real Sociedad.
A case could be made for Xavi starting in the last midfield spot, but due to his age and lack of pace, it just doesn’t make sense. La Real can attack quickly, and Xavi's limitations could become an issue.
Cesc Fabregas should be the last midfielder in the starting lineup and has proven to be vital for the club this season. His ability to create chances as well as score goals will give the Catalans another option and even more space for Iniesta to operate.
It is common knowledge at this point that Lionel Messi will definitely be in the starting lineup for Barcelona. The Argentine is by far the most important player for the club and will be expected to make some magic at the Camp Nou.
The real question is who will start alongside Messi up front?
With Neymar still out of action, there are only three choices for Martino. Alexis Sanchez, Pedro and Cristian Tello will all be hoping to feature from the first whistle, but there is only room for two.
It looks as though Tello should be the odd man out again. Sanchez and Pedro have put up spectacular numbers this season, and Tello just hasn’t been at the same level as the other Barcelona wingers.
Getting through the Real Sociedad defense will not be easy. Barcelona cannot rely on Messi to do all the work as the other wingers must look for their chances, too. La Real are known for not giving up much space, meaning Barcelona will have to do more than just pass the ball.
Playing at the Camp Nou will definitely give Barcelona a big advantage. The Catalans know they will need to get a big result at home in order to be able to easily kill off the tie in the second leg.
At the same time, Real Sociedad understand just how important getting away goals will be. They will be looking to attack and take advantage of mistakes and will likely find the back of the net at some point.
However, Barcelona’s quality and the fact that they will be playing at the Camp Nou will make them too much for the Basques to handle. Messi will perform his magic, and Bartra will be a wall at the back yet again.
Predicted score line: Barcelona 3-1 Real Sociedad
How do you think Barcelona will line up on Wednesday? Will the Catalans be victorious at the Camp Nou? Leave your thoughts and comments below!