With a five goal lead from the first leg, Barça travel to Elche on Thursday night for the second leg of their Spanish Cup round of 16 tie (10.00pm CET) with the clear objective to maintain the positive buzz around the team following their last two wins.
Luis Enrique has named Adama, Halilovic, Munir, Ié, Diagné and Gumbau in his squad for the second leg. He has decided to rest Bravo, Alba, Alves, Mascherano, Sergio, Iniesta, Messi, Neymar and Suárez, as well as the injured Xavi and Vermaelen
Luis Enrique explained in Wednesday’s press conference that he’d like to give as many of his B team youngsters and fringe players a run out against Elche, whilst revealing Xavi is still recovering and would not be risked for the match. Six B team players trained with the first team squad ahead of the game on Wednesday
Barça followed up last week’s first leg rout with perhaps their most impressive performance of the season so far by beating Atlético Madrid 2-1 on Sunday night, while Elche pulled off one of the upsets of the weekend beating Athletic Bilbao 1-2 at the new San Mamés to take them off the bottom of La Liga.
The players in the spotlight will clearly be the six reserves in the team. This is the first call-up to the first team for midfielder Gerard Gumbau since his arrival from Girona in July 2014. Diawandou Diagne of Senegal was included in the squad that beat Huesca 8-1 at the Camp Nou but didn’t get off the bench, while tonight could also see the long-awaited first team debut of Alen Halilović, the teenage sensation who became the youngest ever debutant for the Croatia national team against Portugal in June 2013.
If, as expected, Barça make it through to the next round, they’ll face either Atlético Madrid or Real Madrid, with Simeone’s side going to Bernabéu 2-0 up from last week’s first leg – that game kicks off a couple of hours before Barça’s at 8.00pm (CET).
The game is being shown live on TV3 in Catalonia, via beIN Sports Connect in the USA and on Sky Sports in the UK.