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PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

FC Barcelona will kick off its defence of the Copa del Rey title this evening. The first obstacle in the way of the reigning champions is a team that currently plays in the Segunda División B, but Vilanova’s men know better than to take the match lightly. Deportivo Alavés, Barça’s rival, currently sit atop of Segunda División’s Group 2 and they’re favoured to win promotion this season. This Cup fixture is much more dangerous than it might seem, warned Tito Vilanova on Monday.

Five key players to miss the match

The Blaugrana manager has decided to name many first team players to the team for the away leg against Alavés. However, five of the most utilised players by Vilanova won’t make the trip to Vitoria. They are Valdés, Messi, Xavi and Pedro, the four first team footballers that have played the most this season for Barça, and Jodri Alba, who has featured in Barça’s last six starting line-ups. Three Barça B players – Oier, Sergi Roberto and Tello – will also suit up against Alavés in addition to the first team players that were named to the team by Vilanova.

Therefore, Pinto will probably continue to be the starting keeper for Barça in Cup and players like Bartra and Dos Santos might be named to the starting team.

Four years in Segunda B

Deportivo Alavés have a long history in Spanish football. It’s worth nothing that they played the final of the UEFA Cup 11 years ago. However, Alavés have been battling it out in Segunda B for the past four seasons. The men led by Natxo González have won eight matches and only lost twice this season. This string of results have allowed Alavés to storm to the top of the table of Segunda División B’s Group 2, and if they continue on this excellent form they'll undoubtedly be one of the strongest contenders for promotion this year. Barça be warned, in yesterday's pre-match press conference González stated that “we can beat Barça.”


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