Tactical Insights

Barcelona missing eight players for Copa del Rey clash with Unionistas


Barcelona will be missing eight first-team players for Thursday’s Copa del Rey last-16 contest with Unionistas.

Barcelona will have to work around the absence of eight players for Thursday’s Copa del Rey last-16 contest with Unionistas, with six of those unavailable through injury and two suspended.

The Catalan outfit will enter the cup contest off the back of a 4-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the final of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday evening, and there is pressure on head coach Xavi to guide the team into the next round of this particular competition.

Barcelona are without the services of Joao Cancelo, Gavi, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Inigo Martinez, Marcos Alonso and Raphinha due to injury problems.

Meanwhile, key central defender Ronald Araujo, who is currently being heavily linked with a move away from the club, is suspended for this match alongside Lamine Yamal.

Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo on November 28, 2023© Reuters

Recent arrival Vitor Roque was surprisingly not involved against either Osasuna or Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup, but he is in the squad for this game and will receive some minutes.

Marc Guiu, Hector Fort, Marc Casado, Pau Victor, Pau Cubarsi and Diego Kochen are also given opportunities to due to the first-team absences at Barcelona.

Unionistas play their football in Spain’s third tier, and it would therefore be a huge shock if the home side were able to navigate their way into the next stage.

However, Barcelona had a scare in the last round of the competition against fourth-tier outfit Barbastro, only running out 3-2 winners to advance to the last-16.

The Catalan outfit will be aiming to return to winning ways on Thursday before switching their attention back to La Liga, facing a trip to Seville to tackle Real Betis on Sunday.

Barcelona coach Xavi before the match on December 10, 2023© Reuters

“We have to change our mindset. After the defeat in the Super Cup, we must have a good feeling. We are the favourites,” Barcelona boss Xavi said in his pre-match press conference.

“Unionistas have shown their strength at home. They have eliminated Sporting [Gijon] and Villarreal. A very hard-working team. We have been analysing them. Difficult match but we have hopes for the Cup.

“In the final everything went backwards. We have analysed a lot of things and I see that we failed. We have evolved a lot, from November 2021 until now. We can’t take the example of the Super Cup. The team has evolved a lot. We have to give it continuity and evolve defensively.”

Barcelona are the most successful side in the history of the Copa del Rey, lifting the trophy on 31 occasions, with their last triumph in the competition coming in 2020-21.

Barcelona squad vs. Unionistas:

Pena, Astralaga, Kochen; Balde, Christensen, Kounde, Cubarsi, Fort; Pedri, Romeu, Roberto, F de Jong, Gundogan, Casado, F Lopez; F Torres, Lewandowski, Felix, Roque, Victor, Guiu

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