FC Barcelona and Real Madrid begin their Copa del Rey campaigns on Wednesday night with away games against lower division sides, which in Madrid’s case will bring back unhappy memories of last season.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side, who saw their 11-game unbeaten run come to an end against Getafe on January 2, travel to face third-tier Alcoyano, who last season dumped them out of the cup at the same stage despite playing the last 20 minutes with 10 men.
Real Madrid could still be without Vinicius Jr with COVID-19, while Ancelotti will no doubt rotate his side following the January 2 defeat, with players such as Nacho Fernandez, Andriy Lunin and perhaps even Gareth Bale given a chance in their starting 11.
Reigning cup holders Barca overcame the absence of 18 players through injury and COVID-19 to win 1-0 away to Real Mallorca on January 2, but their situation has hardly improved with Nico Gonzalez and Oscar Mingueza suffering muscle problems during that game.
Ferran Torres and Pedri have since been added to the list of players affected by COVID-19, although neither would have started in Barca’s trip to play Linares, Xinhua reports. Linares, who also play in the third tier (RFEF Primera), have already claimed one La Liga scalp, knocking Alaves out in the last round, and their Linarejos Stadium will be filled to capacity, with 7,500 fans in the stands looking for another upset.
Although Barca coach Xavi Hernandez will once again have to call on several players from Barca’s B team, there is a chance that Dani Alves could make his second debut if the club is able to inscribe him in their first team squad.
The veteran defender has been training with the squad for over two months and his presence will depend on whether Barca are able to resolve wage ceiling issues in time.
Other cup games on Wednesday see Mallorca visit second division high-fliers Eibar, while Leganes host Real Sociedad and Cartagena are at home to Valencia. Valladolid face Real Betis and Mirandes play Rayo Vallecano, whose coach Andoni Iraola took Mirandes to the semifinals two years ago, while third-tier Atletico Baleares hope to add Celta Vigo to the scalp of Getafe that they claimed in the last round.
Among the games to be played on Thursday, Athletic Bilbao visit fourth-tier Atletico Mancha Real, while Rayo Majadahonda face Atletico Madrid in the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.