Barcelona travel to Levante in the first leg of Copa del Rey last 16 round, looking to retain their crown for a fifth consecutive year.
The Blaugrana knocked out third division outfit Cultural Leonesa in the round of 32 with a comprehensive 5-1 victory over two legs.
Meanwhile, Levante overcame second division side Lugo 3-1 to set up an enticing tie with Barca.
Having faced each other recently in La Liga, both will be relishing a chance to lock horns once more in the battle to reach the quarter finals of the competition.
Here’s 90min’s breakdown of Thursday’s clash.
Where To Watch
|When Is Kick Off?||Thursday 10 January|
|What Time Is Kick Off?||20:30 (BST)|
|Where Is it Played?||Estadi Ciutat de Valencia|
|TV Channel/Live Stream?||Eleven Sports Live Score|
With Atletico Madrid in mind on Sunday, Levante manager Paco Lopez may rest several key players including strikers Roger Marti and Jose Morales, whilst on-loan Real Madrid forward Borja Mayoral could feature.
Scorers in the last round Munir and Denis Suarez could feature once more, whilst Barcelona B youngster Juan Brandariz could be recalled having started in their win over Leonesa.
|Levante||Fernandez; Coke, Cabaco, Rober, Luna; Simon, Campana, Bardhi, Mayoral; Boateng, Dwamena.|
|Barcelona||Cillessen; Semedo, Brandariz, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Alena; Malcolm, D.Suarez, Munir.|
Head to Head Record
These sides have met just once in the Copa del Rey, with Barcelona recording an emphatic 9-2 aggregate win in the 2014 quarter finals, before eventually losing to Madrid in the final.
Their most recent encounter came on matchday 15, with Messi netting a hat-trick on the way to a 5-0 rout.
Sitting comfortably mid-table in La Liga, Lopez’s side will fancy their chances in the Copa del Rey – a competition they’ve traditionally struggled in.
Their only notable feat saw them reach the semi finals back in 1935, before exiting at the hands of CD Sabadell in a 4-1 aggregate defeat.
On the contrary, Barcelona have won this competition a record 30 times, seven occasions more than their closest challengers Athletic Bilbao and 11 more than their bitter rivals Madrid.
Messi, Suarez and Philippe Coutinho were among the scorers in Valverde’s debut season at the helm, as the Catalan giants brushed aside Sevilla 5-0 in last season’s final.
Here’s how each side has faired in the past five fixtures:
|Levante 2-2 Girona (04/01)||Getafe 1-2 Barcelona (06/01)|
|Rayo Vallecano 2-1 Levante (23/12)||Barcelona 2-0 Celta Vigo (22/12)|
|Levante 0-5 Barcelona (16/12)||Levante 0-5 Barcelona (16/12)|
|Eibar 4-4 Levante (09/12)||Barcelona 1-1 Tottenham (11/12)|
|Levante 2-0 Lugo (06/12)||Espanyol 0-4 Barcelona (08/12)|
Valverde’s outfit have won eight of their last 10 games in all competitions and will be keen to build on that momentum ahead of a crucial period in their season.
Remaining on course for an unprecedented treble, the strength in depth in this squad is frightening.
Should they find themselves unstuck early on, the Blaugrana have more than enough to progress over two legs.
Prediction: Levante 1-2 Barcelona