Barça are looking to make it into the Copa del Rey semi-finals for the sixth time in a row, and looking further ahead, to become the first team to reach three consecutive finals since the nineties, when the 1996, 1997 and 1998 finals were all contested by… why, Barça of course!
[[DES_1]]The draw for the semi-finals will be on Friday, and should Barça qualify then they could be meeting any of Atlético or Celta (0-0 after the first leg), Las Palmas or Valencia (1-1) or Mirandés or Sevilla (after Sevilla beat the only non top-flight survivor 2-0 at the Sánchez Pizjuán).
Athletic Bilbao is the team that Luis Enrique has faced the most times in a season and a half as Barça manager. In eight games in three different competitions, he has led the team to six victories, one draw and one defeat (in the Spanish Super Cup at the start of this season).
The Asturian has used 25 different players in those matches. The ones that have been given the most time are Ivan Rakitic (615 minutes), Sergio Busquets (607) and Leo Messi (585).
Aritz Aduriz’s 89th minute equaliser handed Athletic a lifeline at San Mamés last Wednesday, and the soon-to-be 35-year-old will once again be the man that the Barça defence will need to specially focus on in the second leg.
Aduriz has scored five times in the last four meetings with the Catalans, including a hat trick in the Super Cup first leg last September. After getting a brace in last weekend’s 5-2 defeat of Eibar, he is just one goal short of equalling his personal best of 26 goals in a season.
There is a bit of flu bug going around in Barcelona at the moment (which the www.fcbarcelona.com staff know only too well… sniff, sniff, achoo!). After Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Arda Turan all missed training this week, there was some concern that the squad might have a problem.
But things seem to have worked out all right in the end. It looks like it’s only the Turk who’s calling in with a sickie on Wednesday night.
Leo Messi (with a minor injury) and Luis Suárez (through suspension) missed out on the first leg last week, while Neymar sat out Saturday’s Liga game at Málaga. But it looks like all three will be in the starting eleven tonight, and that means trouble for the Athletic defence.
Barça have scored at least four goals in every game at the Camp Nou since Christmas, including six against the Basques when they met in the league just ten days ago.