FCB - ATHLETIC BILBAO (41)

Benidorm (08/09), Cultural Leonesa (09/10) and Ceuta (10/11) were the first three opening Copa del Rey rivals for Barça under Guardiola. In all three cases, the team has taken its responsibilities very seriously, winning the away leg and then wrapping up matters at the Camp Nou. Tonight the Copa 2011/12 campaign starts in L’Hospitalet, a local derby that has been brought forward in order for Barça to take part in the Clubs World Cup in December.

Six internationals out

Being the start of a FIFA break, Barcelona are missing six players that have already left on international duty, namely Messi, Mascherano, Alves, Adriano, Alexis and Thiago. The eight players that have been called up by Spain, plus, Abidal (France) and Keita (Mali) will not be joining their own national teams until after the cup tie. Pinto, who has started cup matches for the last three editions, Fontàs and Maxwell are the only players that have not been called up.

With Pedro and Afellay also out through injury, there are just thirteen first team players available for this Cup opener, which is why Guardiola has been using reserve players Deulofeu, Rafinha, Dos Santos, Tello and Sergi Roberto in training this week.

Good news before the break

Barça are playing their first game since the epic draw at San Mamés, which took a lot out of the players. But now it is time to lay aside the Liga and Champions League for a while to concentrate on the last game before most of the players will be away with their national teams. The opposition is L’Hospitalet, currently top of their Division 2B group, and who have no fewer than seven players that spent time in the Barcelona youth system on their books.