Copa del Rey Preview – ThursdayJanuary 4, 2018
The final eight teams will play their last 16 first legs on Thursday night as the Copa del Rey gets even more competitive with places in the quarter finals up for grabs, I take a look at the four matches.
Barcelona will travel to Vigo in Galicia to take on a Celta side who managed to get a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou when the sides met in La Liga last month.
Goals from Iago Aspas and Maxi Gomez cancelled out efforts from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to earn a point for Celta and they’ll hope to get a similar result or even better on Thursday at the Balaidos to take to Barcelona for next week’s second leg.
Barca overcame third tier Real Murcia 8-0 on aggregate in the last round but will no doubt field a stronger XI in their two legs with Celta, although Messi, Suarez and Andres Iniesta are not in the squad, with a tougher tie expected against the Celestes who defeated fellow La Liga side Eibar 3-1.
Rafinha is another player who won’t feature after Ernesto Valverde left him out of the squad despite being back to full fitness but Ousmane Dembele returns from his injury. Valverde explained his decisions saying, “The idea is for him (Rafinha) to get back into the rhythm of playing matches after being out for so long. Dembele has to adapt all over again but we are sure he is going to be an important player for us.”
Real Madrid also kick off their last 32 tonight as they travel to face a Numancia side who produced a shock in the last round defeating La Liga side Malaga.
Numancia scored twice in stoppage time at home to win 2-1 before a 1-1 draw in Andalucia saw them safely through. Real on the other hand stuttered past Segunda B minnows Fuenlabrada after a 2-2 draw at the Bernabeu but penalties from Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio in the first leg were enough to get them through to the last 16.
Real played pretty much a reserve side in both of those games and will do so again against the La Liga 1|2|3 side with Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo all sitting out the fist leg.
Numancia manager Jagoba Arrasate knows how tough the task will be for his side but hopes to enjoy it, “To win, two situations must be given, we play the perfect match and they are not comfortable, we know it is very complicated but that they don’t take away any illusion.”
Elsewhere, Leganes host Villarreal at the Butarque just a month after a 3-1 win for Leganes at the same venue in La Liga.
In the last round Leganes got past Segunda side Valladolid pretty easily whereas Villarreal had to win at home, after a first leg defeat, which they did to scrape past Ponferradina.
The Yellow Submarine will be without top scorer Cedric Bakambu after the DR Congo frontman sealed a move to Beijing Guoan in China for €40 million earlier this week. Enes Unal has been recalled from his loan at Levante and is one of two strikers in Javier Calleja’s squad for the trip to Madrid, alongside Carlos Bacca.
Espanyol face Levante at the RCDE Stadium in the final match of the night in another all La Liga clash.
Los Pericos got to this stage with a 3-2 aggregate victory over Tenerife with all five goals coming in an entertaining second leg in Catalonia although with them being at home first this time they may need to win to take something with them to Valencia for the second leg.
Opponents Levante defeated fellow Primera side Girona 3-1 in the last round but have drawn six of their last eleven games in La Liga, including a 0-0 draw at Espanyol, and will hope to get at least a similar result on Thursday.
6pm Celta Vigo vs Barcelona 6pm Leganes vs Villarreal 8pm Espanyol vs Levante 8pm Numancia vs Real Madrid