Coming off a disappointing 2-2 score line from the first-leg, Barcelona face a tough challenge to secure a meeting with Real Madrid in the next round as they head to Malaga for the return match of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal.
A potential semifinal with their bitter rivals is quite the prize, but Barcelona first need to rebound from what, in a record-breaking season, represents almost a stuttering period. Yes, Barcelona have now gone two matches without a victory, having followed up the 2-2 draw with Malaga with their first La Liga defeat of the season against Real Sociedad, 3-2.
Barcelona will need a victory over Malaga or a high-scoring draw to move into the last four. They will have to do so without manager Tito Vilanova on the sidelines, who will miss the contest at La Rosaleda having again flown to New York for further cancer treatment.
That means that Jordi Roura will be in charge and the assistant coach has been stressing the importance of the second-leg match with Malaga.
“[It is] the first decisive match, the first ‘match-ball’ of the season,” he said, according to Barcelona’s official Web site.
“It’s not necessary to tell the players anything, they are aware how important the match is. “I have no doubt that we’ll give it our all, but this is football. I’m sure that the team will react well.”
Roura will have David Villa available after recovering from a hamstring injury. Gerard Pique is also in the squad following the birth of his first child.
In comparison to Barcelona’s stutter, Malaga may soon become genuinely concerned by their recent dip in form. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have now dropped out of the top four in La Liga after taking just one point from their last three matches.
Against Barcelona, Malaga will be without their young star Isco. Pellegrini will have new loan signing form Chelsea Lucas Piazon available for selection.
G: KameniD: Demichelis, Weligton, Eliseu
M: Iturra, Camacho
Joaquin, Portillo, Buonanotte
F: Santa Cruz
D: Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Alba
M: Fabregas, Busquets, Xavi
F: Pedro, Messi, Iniesta
Prediction: Barcelona have won on their last five trips to Malaga and are likely to name a strong lineup to try and make sure that they make it six in a row and earn a meeting with Real Madrid. Without Isco and not in the best of form, Malaga are unlikely to be able to resist Barcelona’s progress.
Malaga 0-2 Barcelona
Where to watch: The second leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinal will kick off from La Rosaleda at 4 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.