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On Wednesday at 9.30pm CET at Camp Nou the final part of the Barça v Athletic trilogy will be played out, the saga coming to an end in the second leg of their last 16 Copa del Rey tie. The opening encounter a week and a half ago saw Luis Enrique’s team storm to a 6-0 win at home in the league.
Seven days ago the Basques pushed Barça all the way in the first leg of the cup tie in San Mamés, the blaugranes leaving Bilbao with a slender 2-1 advantage. The Catalans will defend that lead against the team they beat in the final of the competition last season as they attempt to reach their sixth consecutive semi-final in the Copa del Rey.
Gerard Piqué should be fresh after sitting out the weekend’s 2-1 league win away at Málaga due to suspension and Luis Suárez returns to cup action after a two game ban in the competition. However, Arda Turan misses the game due to fever and Jordi Alba and Rafinha are injured.
Messi and Mathieu did not feature in the first leg, but are included in the 18 this time, which reads as follows: Ter Stegen, Masip, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Dani Alves, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Mascherano, Bartra, Munir, Sergi Roberto, Adriano, Aleix Vidal, Vermaelen and Mathieu.
Athletic boss and former Barça player Ernesto Valverde named his squad for the away game on Tuesday with Raúl García, Ander Iturraspe, Óscar De Marcos and Ibai Gómez all missing due to injury.
The full list is as follows: Iraizoz, Bóveda, Elustondo, Laporte, Eraso, San José, Beñat, Iago Herrerín, Susaeta, Williams, X.Etxeita, Mikel Rico, Gurpegi, Muniain, Aduriz, Balenziaga, Sabin Merino, I.Lekue.
Luis Enrique: “I'm expecting the same Athletic we saw in the first leg. Maybe even more dangerous."
“They’re going to need to attack because a scoreless draw will be no good to them.”
Ernesto Valverde: “We can do it, it is a question of not giving up.”
“With what Barça have going forward, it’s difficult to see them not scoring, but we know what we have to do.”
Barça stretched their unbeaten run to 24 games at the weekend with a doughty performance to win 2-1 away at Málaga. The victory allowed them to reclaim top spot in the league, level on points with Atlético whom they meet at Camp Nou on Saturday. At home Luis Enrique’s side have hit a rich vein of form, winning their last four matches in front of their fans, scoring 18 goals and conceding just once in the process.
Athletic came back from successive defeats against Barça to win 5-2 at the weekend against fellow Basque side Eibar in the league. Striker Aritz Aduriz continued his excellent season with another two goals to bring his total in all competitions to a staggering 25.
The last encounter in the Copa del Rey at Camp Nou between these two teams came in the final last season at the end of May. Leo Messi’s wonder goal was the highlight that day of a 3-1 victory that handed the blaugranes their 27th win in the competition.
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