Following a frustrating 1-1 draw against Espanyol over the weekend, Barcelona visits Alicante to clash Intercity in the early stages of the Copa del Rey. The return after the World Cup didn’t go as expected and Xavi’s men will surely look to collect an obligatory win against the 3rd tier opponent and prepare for the next league game against Atlético Madrid in a positive mood.
Barca News Network presents you 4 key talking points ahead of Barcelona’s round of 32 game in the Copa Del Rey against CF Intercity.
1. An obligatory opponent:
When talking about the early stages of the cup, for the top-tier sides of Spain, it’s all about bringing home the obligatory win against a way lower-quality opposition. In our case, it is CF Intercity which poses the first – and likely, the easiest – challenge in the cup for Barcelona, which should cause, with all due respect, no difficulties at all for Xavi’s crew.
About Intercity, we are talking about quite a new club as it was created with the restructuring of GCD Sant Joan in 2017. Based in San Juan de Alicante, the team currently competes in the Primera División RFEF, the third tier of the Spanish league system. Since their foundation, they enjoyed a commendable rise from the 6th division, but still, they are far from being a real threat to the Blaugranas.
And another fun fact: Given Intercity has a really tiny ‘stadium’ with just a capacity of 2500 spectators, they had to move the venue of the match to Hercules’s Estadio José Rico Pérez, which has a more reasonable, 29.500 capacity.
2. The importance of the Copa del Rey:
Now, even though – as I said before – this game should cause no real difficulties for Barcelona, it has emphasized importance for the Catalan giants. Indeed, the indubitably lower quality of the opposition and the weekend derby against Atlético Madrid ahead indicates rotating the squad, and thus, focusing rather elsewhere, but in fact, this game holds key importance for Barcelona.
Given the expectations jumped high following such an amazing summer transfer window, only real trophies could be accepted as the result of this significant financial investment. Furthermore, as we have already fallen out of the Champions League – which could, by all means, be considered as a failure – the importance of every possible other trophy has increased massively.
Thus, the Copa del Rey has become an even more important objective as a potential trophy would serve as an affirmation and boost the trust in the success of this project. With a tough contest with the likes of Manchester United, Juventus, and Arsenal in the Europa League and a fierce battle against Real Madrid in the league awaiting, maybe the Copa Del Rey is the most accessible trophy for us right now.
3. There’s always room for improvement:
However, as we could see in the weekend, a lower-rated opponent can also cause problems for even the best teams, and everyone should be aware of every situation, focusing on the current task to prevail. Thus, no matter the odds and the probabilities, no opponent should be undervalued, and the same applies for our third-tier opposition tonight.
The game against Espanyol highlighted some old issues that need to be solved as soon as possible in order to overcome those obstacles that separate us from the real elite. For example, the inconsistency that describes our finishing – especially with a growing overreliance on Lewandowski who will miss this game among others – is one of these aspects that needs improvement as Xavi also highlighted in his pre-match press conference.
Another objective would be to develop total control of the game and eradicate totally the mistakes that can enable the opposition to find their moments in the game and neutralize our dominance, exploiting just a few lapses that can, however, cost us much. Similarly, despite containing Espanyol’s attacking intentions perfectly during the game, one bad touch from Alonso was enough to grant our local rivals a penalty, an opportunity to grab the crucial equalizer and steal one point away from Camp Nou, and they didn’t err.
As some watchful eyes could already notice, some of the main stars didn’t even got named in the traveling squad. Thus, Pedri and Lewandowski were given some crucial rest, given the Atlético clash ahead on Sunday. Their exclusion, beside some other key players, probably being rested from the get-go, opens up a great opportunity for the fringe players or the ones returning from injury to get some valuable minutes and with a potential good performance, compete for the starter spots.
Therefore, we might see the newly-promoted Iñaki Peña play between the sticks, as Xavi also hinted in the press conference, while finally, Ronald Araújo can get his first minutes since being sidelined for months due to a thigh injury. Moreover, the likes of Héctor Bellerín, Franck Kessié, Pablo Torre, and Memphis Depay can all get a chance from Xavi to prove themselves.
All in all, it would be unwary to undervalue any opponent, and in this case, the third-tier side Intercity shouldn’t be taken lightly too. In terms of a potential trophy source, the importance of the game is also not neglectable, meanwhile, it’s a great opportunity to rotate ahead of the crucial game against Atlético Madrid. Forca Barca.