After crawling away from a frustrating 1-1 draw against RCD Espanyol in La Liga Santander, La Blaugrana now face the parallel domestic task of competing in the Copa Del Ray. Their first objective at hand is the round of 32 of the King’s Cup, where they face Third-division side CF Intercity.
Date: Wednesday, 4th January 2022
Competition: Copa Del Ray
Matchday: Round of 32
Venue: Estadio José Rico Pérez
Time: 09:00 pm Central European Time
Looking ahead to the opponents firstly, CF Intercity currently compete in the Primera Division RFEF, which is the third tier of the Spanish Football League system, and they are currently sitting at the 16th position in their league table, boasting 19 points from 17 matches.
In terms of their form, they boast 2 wins out of their last 5 games overall, whereas out of the two games in totality that they have played thus far in the Copa Del Ray have resulted in them emerging as victors.
Prior to this upcoming clash against the Catalans from the First division, Intercity have already tumbled with Barcelona B in Primera Division RFEF in December, with that game having ended in a 0-0 stalemate by the end of the 90 minutes. Heading into this match against the first team, however, the level of quality and experience will be on a whole other level.
In the case of FC Barcelona themselves, they head into this game as current La Liga leaders, having amassed a total of 38 points from 15 games thus far, and having won 4 of their last 5 official games in the league. Their most recent outing following the conclusion of the FIFA World Cup was against Espanyol in the Derbi Barceloní which also ended in a 1-1 draw.
This upcoming match marks FC Barcelona’s first outing in the domestic cup this season, while this will be the third outing for their opponents CF Intercity in this competition. Moreover, as is the usual case with the Copa Del Ray’s rulings, Intercity will be given home advantage being the lower seed in this matchup, meaning the Catalans will be traveling to Alicante to face the Third-division side.
Having crashed out of the UEFA Champions League earlier this season, the importance of the Copa Del Ray may have just skyrocketed in the eyes of the team from Barcelona, as now every singular major title from domestic to European level, becomes pivotal to their project and short-term objectives.
This in turn makes this game against Intercity hold massive value to the progression of Barcelona’s season, and hopefully, they emerge victorious.
Goalkeeper: Iñaki Peña
Being Barcelona’s second-choice goalkeeper behind Marc Andre-Ter Stegen, this game is the optimal opportunity for Iñaki Peña to step up and perform when called upon. This game in turn could be crucial to earning Xavi’s faith and confidence in Pena’s own abilities and quality.
The young La Masian goalkeeper will be available for this clash after being registered as a first-team player today and will wear the number 13.
Left-back: Jordi Alba
Having been suspended for FC Barcelona’s next league match against Atlético de Madrid on Sunday, Jordi Alba is likely to start again as a left-back. However, the Catalan club has filed an appeal against the suspension of the veteran defender resulting from two yellow cards being shown for dissent in a span of 6 minutes by Mateu Lahoz.
Centre-back: Jules Kounde
Came on as a substitute against Espanyol and was pretty solid in his first outing following the World Cup. May just start this time around to get more game time to get back into the rhythm required for competing in full games following the break after the World Cup.
Centre-back: Ronald Araujo
Arguably the biggest miss for Barcelona in recent times following his injury, the Uruguayan is now fully fit according to numerous reports, and could possibly start alongside Kounde when Barca enter the pitch against Intercity.
Right-back: Hector Bellerin
According to reports in Spain, Hector Bellerin may just be the chosen one to cover Barcelona’s right end of the defense against Intercity, a match that may just allow him the game time he needs to find his own form back.
CDM: Franck Kessie
Another player who will reportedly start this Copa Del Ray clash, Kessie has been struggling for game time for quite a while now, and this match seems as good an opportunity as any to finally let him have it and be a test for the Ivorian simultaneously.
CM: Frenkie De Jong
Crucial in allowing Barcelona to transition from defense to offense thanks to his fluid dribbling and innate ability to maneuver the ball into enemy territory with relative ease, Frenkie could prove to be the key in breaking down Intercity should he be started in the game.
Started alongside Pedri in the CM role in the game against Espanyol, Gavi might just be the one to start this one as Pedri has not been included in the squad list and will get some deserved rest ahead of a stacked schedule.
Gavi’s balanced abilities in aiding both offensive and defensive actions are vital in maintaining possession and dominance of the ball in any given match that Barcelona takes part in.
Left-winger: Ansu Fati
Ansu Fati is expected to start on the left wing again and this could be another opportunity for him to find his own best form after a rather subpar display against Espanyol.
Centre-forward: Memphis Depay
Similar to a few others, Memphis Depay is also amongst those being speculated to start against Intercity. Given the time he’s been away from playing regularly for the Catalans, this game should be a good moment in time to let the Dutchman finally have some much-needed minutes again.
Right-winger: Ousmane Dembele
As Raphinha started over Dembele against Espanyol allowing the latter to get some more rest, it seems now would be the ideal scenario to start the Frenchman over his Brazilian teammate and assess just how effective the players are in accordance with varying sets of opponents and teammates.
Barca vs CF Intercity: Expected Line-up
Goalkeeper: Inaki Pena
Defenders: Alba, Araujo, Kounde, Bellerin
Midfielders: Gavi, De Jong, Kessie
Forwards: Fati, Memphis, Dembele