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Copa del Rey Preview – Thursday

Copa del Rey Preview – Thursday

Catalan rivals Barcelona and Espanyol go head to head at the Camp Nou on Thursday night aiming to join Sevilla, Valencia and Leganes in the Copa del Rey semi finals.

Espanyol stunned their noisy neighbours with Oscar Melendo’s late goal at the RCDE Stadium last week giving them a 1-0 win and a slender advantage to take with them across the city as they aim to cause another upset in the quarter finals after the unexpected exits of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid earlier in the week.

The two sides have already met at the Camp Nou in La Liga with a Lionel Messi hat-trick inspiring the Blaugrana to a 5-0 win in September with Barca favourites to progress despite being behind in the tie.

Manager Ernesto Valverde, who will have Philippe Coutinho available for the first time, knows how much the game means, saying: “We know that we are behind on aggregate and it’s do or die, but we have the advantage of playing at home in the second leg and we hope that the fans can spur us on.

This derby has special motivation for us because we have to come from behind. The cup is a competition that excites us.”

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Quique Sanchez Flores rejected advances from English Premier League side Stoke City to stay with Los Pericos and hopes to guide his side into the Copa semi finals.

He said: “Before the first game we told ourselves that we would divide the 90 minutes in half and treat each half as a separate match. The result of that match gives no doubt that the rematch will be long and intense. We want to stand up to the task.”

Thomas Vermaelen will be out for Barcelona after picking up an injury in the weekend’s 5-0 win at Real Betis with the defender joining Ousmane Dembele on the injury list. Denis Suarez, Gerard Deulofeu and Nelson Semedo are left out of the squad although new signings Philippe Coutinho and Yerry Mina will be on the bench.

Espanyol will be without Pablo Piatti and Jose Manuel Jurado through injury. Didac Vila, Sergio Sanchez, Jairo Morillas and Alexander Dominguez all miss out.

Barcelona Squad: Ter Stegen, Cillessen; Pique, Alba, Digne, Umtiti, Mina; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta, Paulinho, Roberto, Gomes, Coutinho; Messi, Suarez, Alcacer

Espanyol Squad: Pau Lopez, Diego Lopez; Navarro, Martin, Sanchez, Naldo, Duarte, David Lopez, Javi Lopez, Hermoso; Melendo, Fuego, Roca, Granero, Darder; Moreno, Garcia, Baptistao

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Barcelona vs Espanyol   8pm