Barcelona v Athletic: match preview
It's somewhat a shame that at this stage of the 2016/17 Copa del Rey we have to lose one of the competing sides in tonight's game who are both synonymous with the Spanish Cup. A 2-1 lead secured at San Mames last Thursday, gives Ernesto Valverde's side a slight advantage coming into the fixture tonight at Camp Nou.
The San Mames game sadly won't be remembered for a fine first half display from the home side but for the post match fall-out as the Catalan side felt they were hard-done by with various match officiating decisions during the discourse of the 90 minutes with central defender Pique claiming in his post match interview with TVE "We know how this works"
Los Leones will look to emulate the heroics of the Spanish Super Cup game at Camp Nou in the Summer of 2015 when a 1-1 draw (following a 4-0 win for Athletic at San Mames) saw the Basque side lift their first silverware since 1984. A similar scoreline this evening would see problems mount for the Catalan side with Luis Enriques' men currently third in LaLiga.
It's anticipated that Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic will return to the Barcelona starting eleven after being left out of Sunday's game at the newly named Estadio de la Ceramica in Villarreal where a sublime last minute free-kick by Lionel Messi salvaged a point for the current league champions.
Jordi Alba too is set for a return at left back and once again the home crowd will look to the attacking fire-power of the MSN that has stuttered somewhat this season to secure the goals that see the Catalan side in Friday's draw for the last 8 which will be held at the Spanish FA at mid-day.
How much will Athletic miss Raul Garcia this evening? The veteran midfielder received his marching orders in the final stages of the first leg and the lack of presence from Athletic's top scorer in the cup this season (3 goals) could be key at Camp Nou this evening.
Iñaki Williams is a late doubt with the young striker picking up a bug which provoked a feverish condition. Valverde will leave it late before deciding if the 22 year old is apt to play and coach "Txingurri Valverde" will need the speed and versatility of Williams to accompany veteran marksman Aritz Aduriz in leading the line for Athletic.
Barcelona vs Athletic Club: possible line-ups
Cillessen, Jordi Alba, Piqué, Umtiti, Sergio Busquets, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar, Rafinha, S. Roberto.
Iraizoz, Bóveda, Balenziaga, Laporte, Etxeita, San José, Beñat, Eraso,Sabin, Merino, Williams, Saborit.