preview | 2016-12-20
Match Preview - Spanish Cup Last 32 - Barcelona vs Hércules
Barça says goodbye to 2016 at home to seal their place in the last 16 in the cup
Barcelona play their final game of 2016 on Wednesday night when they host Hercules in the second leg of their Copa del Rey tie. The tie is still very much in the balance with the first leg finishing 1-1 but Luis Enrique’s men will be big favourites to secure their place in the last 16 of a tournament they won last season.
Hercules will come to Camp Nou in a confident mood after following up the first leg draw with three successive wins in Segunda B that has saw them move up to 4th in the table, six points behind table topping Barcelona B. Hercules took the lead in the first leg of this tie against what was a second string Barcelona side and it is expected that they will once again take on a rotated team with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar and Gerard Pique already away on their winter breaks.
Wednesday night's match will be Barcelona’s last game for at least two weeks with no competitive games scheduled until the 8th January when they travel to El Madrigal to take on Villarreal. That will change with a victory here though as the next round of the Copa del Rey is scheduled to take place between the 3rd and 5th January. Barcelona will be strong favourites to win this game and it would be expected that that the club’s plans for the Christmas period will have been made with preparation for the next round of this competition in mind.
With Messi, Suarez, Neymar and Pique already confirmed to be away on holidays it remains to be seen how Luis Enrique will set his team up on Wednesday night. It is most likely that the team will be something similar to the one that played in the first leg with maybe one or two more senior players taking a place on the bench for the game so they can be called upon if required. Regardless of what squad Luis Enrique decides to start the game with it should be good enough to ensure victory and anything less than a comfortable win would be a massive upset.
2016 has been a mixed year for Barcelona fans with some fantastic highs mixed with some disappointing lows. Winning the domestic double for the second season in a row was an excellent achievement but the run of poor results in April that included losing to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals was a definite low point. The second half of 2016 was another mixed bag with the club progressing well in the Champions League and producing some outstanding displays, none more so than at the weekend against Espanyol, but the fact Barcelona are three points off the pace at the top of the table after some poor results against the likes of Alavés, Celta de Vigo, Málaga and Real Sociedad has been frustrating. That said there are a lot of similarities between the current situation and the one two years ago when Barcelona got their act together after the Winter Break and went on a wonderful run that culminated in the treble. Even the most pessimistic of Cules would be happy with a repeat of that in 2017 but if the dream is to carry on into the new year then Hercules are the first hurdle that has to be dealt with on Wednesday night.
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WRITTEN BY: Gerry Johnston
Gerry Johnston is a 31 year old Civil Servant from County Antrim, Ireland. Gerry has been writing about football for various websites since Euro 2012 and he has been a Barcelona fan since the mid 90s.