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Barça are trying to knock out a Basque side for the second round in a row. | VÍCTOR SALGADO - FCB

Having sauntered out of an Arctic-esque Anoeta last week with not just a quarterfinal first-leg victory but also a crucial away goal tucked firmly under the arm (Highlights below, Match Report), FC Barcelona return to Camp Nou Thursday night amidst a sublime run of form that has them brimming with confidence as the second leg and a seventh successive semifinal berth in the Copa del Rey hang in the air like a tennis ball begging to be put away with an overhead smash on match point.

But that’s not to say the Blaugrana machine can afford to take its eye off the ball. Although their first-leg triumph halted a ten-season winless streak in San Sebastián, Barça’s lead is minimal, thus making it wise to presume the Txuriurdin will do anything but capitulate until the shrill blast of the referee’s final whistle pierces what is forecast to be a chilly and humid Mediterranean evening.  

Team News

FC Barcelona worked out on Wednesday morning for the final time in advance of Thursday’s Catalan–Basque tête–à–tête at Camp Nou. The first 15 minutes of the session were broadcast on Facebook Live:

 

It was already known that the injured Sergio Busquets, Andrés Iniesta and Rafinha would be absent, while Ter Stegen was also left out of the squad revealed on the morning of the match.

That means a return to first team action for Javier Mascherano after missing the weekend’s league trip to Eibar through suspension, while Jordi Masip has also been called up for one of the two goalkeeping berths along with Jasper Cillessen.

The full squad is therefore as follows: Cillessen, Masip, Piqué, Rakitic, Denis, Arda, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Mascherano, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes, Aleix Vidal, Umtiti and Mathieu.

Real Sociedad, however, announced their 18-man squad on Wednesday morning. Among the absentees are the injured right back Joseba Zaldúa and forward David Concha.

Coaches’ Verdict

With a curious flock of sportswriters dangling the gamut of juicy queries in repeated attempts to draw out head coach Luis Enrique Martínez’s prime choices to replace the sidelined Iniesta and Busquets in the backbone of the Barça midfield, the manager wasn’t biting.

“I have plenty of options,” he said coyly at Wednesday's pre-game press conference, while citing his disinclination to divulge anything that might benefit his counterpart, Eusebio Sacristán, the highly respected Real Sociedad manager who — as a former Barça player and reserve team coach — has long exhibited a remarkable football aptitude built atop his experience at the Catalan club.

Eusebio, of course, is keeping the faith. At his own news conference on Wednesday, he said he was “confident” Real have a shot at dethroning the two-time reigning champs.

“We like our chances,” he said. “We’re motivated by the semis and we’re convinced we can win there [at Camp Nou].”

Form Guide

Little has changed since the first leg, with both sides posting wins in La Liga over the weekend. Barça, in fact, were back in the Basque Country on Sunday night — just 72 hours after the win at Anoeta — when they summarily dispatched Eibar, 4–0. Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suárez — aka The Trident — all scored in the win (Highlights below, Match Report).

The Txuriurdin also pocketed three points in La Liga last weekend, topping visiting Celta Vigo on Sunday, 1–0.

History

Thursday’s meeting will be the sixth game all-time between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad in the Spanish Cup. As we said in our preview to the first-leg, Barça bested the Basques in three title matches before the turn of the millennium, while also knocking Real out in the semifinals of the 2013/14 tournament with a win and a draw. Now, following last week’s 1–0 victory, Barça are not only eyeing a coveted seat at the semifinal table for the seventh year running, but also looking to remain undefeated all-time versus Real in the competition.

Live Coverage

No matter where you are in the world we have you covered. You can also listen to live play-by-play streamed in English on Radio Barça, as well as follow our exclusive, minute-by-minute updates on FC Barcelona's official English language Twitter account as the action unfolds. Don't miss it!

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