FC Barcelona travel back to the suburbs on Wednesday night when they visit RCD Espanyol at the Estadi Cornellà–El Prat in the return leg of the Copa del Rey last 16.
This will be the third clash between the two intra-city rivals in the last eleven days, but there’s more in the line this time — a berth in the quarter-finals.
They first played to a scoreless draw at Espanyol in La Liga on 2 January. A 4–1 victory at Camp Nou in the first leg of the Copa del Rey last 16 on 6 January, though, has given the FCB a solid aggregate cushion heading into Wednesday’s rubber match.
One day after starring in Monday's annual FIFA Gala in Zurich, Switzerland, Barça wrapped up preparations on Tuesday and, on Wednesday morning, head coach Luis Enrique named his squad. The following players made the list:
Ter Stegen, Masip, Piqué, Rakitic, Busquets, Dani Alves, Arda Turan, Iniesta, Messi, Neymar Jr, Bartra, Mascherano, Munir, Sergi Roberto, Adriano, Aleix Vidal, Vermaelen and Mathieu.
Striker Luis Suárez is out serving a two-game suspension stemming from a post-game incident.
Luis Enrique spoke to reporters following Tuesday’s workout and explained with clarity that his team’s approach would not change, despite the sizable aggregate advantage.
"We'll do the same things we did in the previous derbies, which is going out to win," the coach said.
After the press conference, he went to Espanyol’s stadium for a photo op with his counterpart Constantin Galca, and the two coaches expressed their hopes that Wednesday’s derby would be clean and free of controversy.
Barça are now unbeaten in their last five games across all competitions, including four wins. The lone draw came precisely at Espanyol in La Liga almost two weeks ago. But none of that matters now, as protecting their 4–1 aggregate lead is paramount.
Espanyol have one win, one draw and three losses in their last five games. None of that matters either. On Wednesday night, the Periquitos need to score at least three goals while keeping Barça off the scoreboard or else they’ll be watching the rest of the Copa del Rey on TV.