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After Barça won the first leg of their cup tie with Elche so convincingly, 5-0 at the Camp Nou, manager Luis Enrique has opted to take six players from the reserve team with him for the return match, three of which (Diagné, Halilovic and Gumbau) could make their official debuts tonight. If you haven’t been following the fortunes of Eusebio Sacristan’s B team in the second division, here’s a brief introduction to six players for whom Thursday 15 January, 2015 could be a night to remember.
Right winger Adama Traoré (25 January 1996) was born in the city of L’Hospitalet on the outskirts of Barcelona. He’s been at Barça since he was eight, and last season featured as a substitute in first team matches in both La Liga and the Champions League. When he came on in the 8-1 rout of Huesca in the cup last month, Adama was able to celebrate his maiden goal for the first team. Although he played for Spain at different youth levels, he announced in 2014 that for full internationals he will be switching allegiance to his parents’ home country of Mali.
A product of the ASPIRE academy in Qatar, Diawandou Diagne (8 November 1994) joined Barça B last summer from Belgian second division outfit Eupen. Luis Enrique named Diagné in a first team squad for the first time for the cup tie with Huesca in December 2014, but he didn’t get off the bench. The central defender already has full international experience. He played all 90 minutes when his country, Senegal, faced Colombia in a friendly last May.
Of the six reserves on Thursday’s squad, Gerard Gumbau (18 December 1994) is the only one that has never been named in a first team squad before. He’s an attack-minded central midfielder with a good eye for free kicks and long-range shots who joined Barça from Girona B last summer. He has been quick to gain Eusebio Sacristan’s confidence, having appeared in almost every one of the B team’s games in his debut season.
Widely cited as one of the most prodigious teenage talents in European football, attacking midfielder Alen Halilović (18 June 1996) is set to finally make his official first team debut this evening. He was only 16 years and 128 days old when he played for Dynamo Zagreb in the Champions League in December 2012, making him the second youngest player to ever appear in the tournament. Six months later he became the youngest ever Croatian international. He joined Barça in May of last year and when he appeared in the opening preseason friendly against Huelva, the whole world took note. He’s a superstar in the making and all eyes will be on him if he plays against Elche tonight.
Born in the small West African country of Guinea-Bissau, Edgar Ié (1 May 1994) was a product of the Sporting Lisbon academy who joined FC Barcelona in the summer. The right back has been one of the success stories at Barça B this season, and made his first team debut last month when he replaced Jérémy Mathieu for the last 27 minutes of the 4-0 win over Huesca in the cup.
Of the six, Munir El Haddadi (1 September 1995) has the most first team experience. Particularly while Luis Suárez was serving his suspension, the striker was a regular feature of squad selections, to the extent that he’s actually appeared in more first team games (15) than he has for Barça B (12) this term. It was in a league match with Elche that he made his first team debut, coming on for Pedro and getting the second goal in a 3-0 win. The doubts as to whether Munir would play for his native Spain or for his parents’ homeland of Morocco were finally put to rest when he played in Spain’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Macedonia in September.
The best of luck to all six of the youngsters this evening!
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