Barcelona will be keen to keep up their domestic dominance when they face AD Ceuta in the Last 16 of the Copa Del Rey on Thursday.
La Liga giants Barcelona will be flush with confidence following their Supercopa de Espana win over Real Madrid at the weekend and will be eager to face AD Ceuta in the Round of 16 of the Copa Del Rey.
The third-tier side will be hoping to partake in a giant-killing of David vs Goliath proportions in front of their own fans at the Estadio Alfonso Murube. Barcelona are likely to make several changes to the side that started against Real Madrid on Sunday but will still go into the game as favourites.
Xavi Hernandez tasted his first trophy as Barcelona manager at the weekend and will be keen to add to his tally this season. The Catalan has already won the trophy thrice as a player in Blaugrana colours and is no stranger to going all the way in the competition.
Barcelona have won the Copa Del Rey 31 times, more than any other side in the history of Spanish football. It is in stark contrast to Ceuta, who have made it to the Last 16 for the first time in their 66-year-old history. Should they pull off the improbable against Barcelona, it is likely to be one of the biggest shocks in the competition’s history.
The Catalan outfit eliminated another third-tier side, Intercity Sant Joan d’ Alacant in the previous round. The game ended 4-3 for Barcelona after extra time, a tad closer than one would have expected. It is fair to say that they will approach the tie against Ceuta all the more prepared.
Ceuta will be well served to go out and enjoy their game. After all, what better way to make themselves known than to stun the mighty Cules, even if they might take to the field sans their best players? After all, knockout football is the great leveller. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.
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Tenemos rival para octavos de final de Copa del Rey 🏆
¡¡El @FCBarcelona vuelve a Ceuta!! 🤍🖤
Enhorabuena a toda la familia caballa 🙌🤝
— AD CEUTA FC (@ADCeuta_FC) January 7, 2023
Jose Juan Romero’s side is the lowest-ranked team left in the competition. While on paper, they might appear to be minnows there for the taking, they have also earned one La Liga scalp this season in Elche.
They are already on a dream run in the competition and have made it to the Last 16 for the first time. While a spot in the quarter-finals could prove elusive, the third-division side have little to lose in front of their fans.
The magical run has been the antithesis of Ceuta’s form in the league, where they sit rock bottom. They fought back from two goals down to rescue a point against Real Madrid Castilla last time around but remain winless in four games in the competition.
Despite a relegation battle brewing, Ceuta have largely been impressive at home. They have lost just one of their last five games at the Estadio Alfonso Murube and have hit the target in 16 of the last 17 games at home.
Jose Juan Romero has a fully fit squad at his disposal and should retain faith in his 4-2-3-1 system. Leandro Montagud should start in goal behind the back four of Alain Garcia Fernandez, Juan Gutierrez Martinez, Robin Lafarge and Alejandro Macias Sanchez.
Adri Cuevas and Alberto Reina Campos will be tasked with anchoring the midfield and acting as the first line of defence in their half. The duo will provide the base for Antonio Manuel Gonzalez Gomez, Jose Manuel Lopez Plaza and Liberto Beltran to get forward when needed.
Rodri Rios is one booking away from missing the next match in the competition but will be expected to not hold back against Barcelona. The 32-year-old should lead the line and will act as the attack’s spearhead.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Montagud; Garcia, Gutierrez, Lafarge, Sanchez; Cuevas, Reina; Gomez, Lopez, Beltran; Rodri
While the draw is certainly favourable, Xavi will certainly have been handed a wake-up call from the clash against Intercity in the previous round. Having played Real Madrid just three days ago, the Barcelona boss will be expected to make changes to his playing XI.
Xavi can call upon Ferran Torres and Robert Lewandowski, both of whom are still suspended in La Liga. Barcelona should have enough depth to win the game comfortably, even with several alterations to the playing XI.
— Frenkie de Jong (@DeJongFrenkie21) January 17, 2023
Barcelona are likely to deploy in a 4-3-3 formation, with several fringe players getting playtime. Inaki Pena should start in goal behind a back four of Hector Bellerin, Andreas Christensen, Eric Garcia and Jordi Alba.
The trio of Franck Kessie, Pablo Torre and Sergi Roberto should start in the middle of the park. Former Premier League stars Raphinha and Torres should partner Ansu Fati in the final third. Barcelona are unlikely to deviate from their pass and move philosophy and should have enough in the tank to get the game done without having to rely on substitutes.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Pena; Bellerin, Garcia, Christensen, Alba; Roberto, Kessie, Torre; Raphinha, Torres, Fati
- Ceuta and Barcelona have faced off thrice in the Copa Del Rey, with the Blaugrana winning all the games by an aggregate of 10-1. Ceuta have failed to score against Barcelona in both of their home clashes so far.
- Ceuta have never gotten past the Round of 16 round of the Copa Del Rey. This is their most successful campaign in the competition so far.
- Barcelona are the most successful side in the history of the Copa Del Rey, winning the trophy 31 times.
- Barcelona are also the side with the most finals appearances in the competition. They have made the showpiece event 42 times.
- Barcelona are only one of three teams to win the competition four years in a row. They are also the only club to do so in the post-World War II era.
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🚨 Franck Kessié has decided to stay and fight for his place at Barcelona.
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) January 17, 2023
The move to Camp Nou has proven rather underwhelming for the former AC Milan midfielder. Kessie was a standout player at San Siro but is largely used in a rotational role by Xavi. Possessing excellent ball control and the awareness to burst forward when needed, the Ivorian is a difficult player to keep under wraps when in the mood.
Having won his first trophy with Barcelona this month, it remains to be seen if Kessie can push on and carve a niche for himself. Given the difference in quality, Kessie should be expected to dominate proceedings in the middle of the park. The onus will be on him to make the most of the opportunity and remind everyone of his abilities as a footballer. It could very well prove to be his final game for the club.
AD Ceuta 0-3 Barcelona
Barcelona could not have asked for an easier draw at this stage, considering the teams left in the fray. Xavi and co. will be expected to make it to the quarter-finals with minimal fuss. As long as they remember the lessons learned at Intercity, the visitors should come away with a comfortable win.