Barcelona are Spain’s in-form team as they prepare for Thursday’s Copa del rey second leg against Celta de Vigo, which they will host at Camp Nou.
Copa del Rey
11 January 2018
Kick-off 22:30 CET
Venue: Camp Nou
Referee: A. Hernández
Assistants: T. Sobrino Magán, J. Naranjo Pérez
TEAM MATCHES WIN DRAW LOSS
Barcelona 40 20 11 9
Celta 40 9 11 20
Barcelona 1-1 Celta 4/01/2018 (Copa del Rey)
Barcelona goalscorer: J. Arnaiz (15’)
Celta goalscorer: P. Sisto (31’)
Players to watch:
Barca boss Ernesto Valverde rested some of his best players for the first leg, including Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, both of whom could return for the second leg. Messi will, as always, be the best player on the pitch should he feature, but Valverde could choose to give another chance to Jose Arnaiz, 22, who scored in the first leg and is the latest B-team player looking to break into the first team.
For Celta, keep an eye on their No.10 Iago Aspas. The Spanish forward has returned to his boyhood club after brief spells with Liverpool and Sevilla, and scored an impressive 19 goals in 32 Liga appearances last season. He has found the net 11 times already this season, the same number as Barca’s Luis Suarez, making him La Liga’s deadliest striker after Messi, who has 16 to his name.
Team form and quotes:
Barca have gone undefeated in La Liga this season and top the standings with a nine-point lead over second-placed Atletico Madrid. They ended 2017 in the best way imaginable with a 3-0 win over Real Madrid, and beat Levante by the same scoreline in their most recent encounter.
However, on the last two occasions that Barca have dropped points it had been against none other than Celta. The Galicians held the Catalans to a 2-2 draw in early December before the 1-1 stalemate in the first leg of this tie.
Despite holding their own against the Liga leaders on two recent occasions, Celta will not be happy with their position in the standings: 17th after just one win in their last five matches. That puts them at the bottom end of the clump of teams in the centre of the standings, but they still have a 7-point gap between them and the edge of the relegation zone.
Pione Sisto had equalised for Celta after Jose Arnaiz found the net for Barca in the first leg at Estadio de Balaidos; an away-goal that gives Barca a small advantage, although their manager, Ernesto Valverde, won’t try to sit back and defend that narrow advantage.
“We go into the game with the idea of winning it,” Valverde said. “It’s true that Celta have to score and they have done that in all their games away from home.
“We can’t think that the result is in our favour because then there is the risk that we will make a mistake,” he continued.
“They are a team who try to dominate the game and they don’t want you to have the ball, they put pressure on you high up the field.”
In team news, new Barca signing Philippe Coutinho won’t be making his debut just yet due to an injury, but the star trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Andres Iniesta, who all missed the first leg, are included in the squad.
Celta have reported no injuries ahead of the match, and manager Juan Carlos Unzue will have a full squad to choose from.