Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona faces Valencia in the Copa Del Rey semifinals on February 8, 2012. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Valencia did enough in the first leg of their Copa Del Rey clash with Barcelona to force the Blaugranas to field their best team and get a good result at the Camp Nou.
Last week at the Mestalla, Valencia did enough to keep their Copa Del Rey semifinal tie against Barcelona an interesting one. Just like they did in league play, they were able to hold the Blaugranas to a draw. On this occasion, they only nabbed one away goal in a 1-1 draw, and that goal came off of a set piece from Carles Puyol. Without Andres Iniesta, the Barcelona attack looked very average. Los Che will be underdogs at Camp Nou on Wednesday, but they're not being written off entirely.
Iniesta is still out, and now Sergio Busquets is out as well. Barcelona is thrilled that his laceration is nothing more, but he still needs time for his massive wound to heal before he can play a professional football match. Javier Mascherano should step into the center of midfield, with Puyol and Gerard Pique resuming their defensive pairing.
Pep Guardiola could opt to move Cesc Fabregas or Thiago Alcantara into a forward position, but he's more likely to start Isaac Cuenca or Christian Tello up top along with Lionel Messi and Alexis Sanchez. Cuenca has been a pleasant surprise all year for Barcelona, while Tello made a spectacular debut against Real Sociedad at the weekend.
Valencia's lineup is likely to be unchanged from the one that played at the Mestalla. The pressure will be on David Albelda and Ever Banega to win the ball and spring counter-attacks, which they're excellent at doing. Jordi Alba and Jeremy Mathieu will attack Barcelona's right frequently, and their best route to a crucial away goal will likely be down that flank as Daniel Alves gets caught too far up the pitch.
Barcelona don't lose at Camp Nou and Valencia haven't been great this year outside of their home stadium, but they have the talent and the right style of play to nick a draw off Barcelona. Anything but a Blaugranas win would be a surprise, but only a very minor one. Barcelona are certainly the better side, but Valencia have already proven on two separate occasions that their style of play and their left side presents a matchup nightmare for the Cules.
Barcelona vs. Valencia
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, February 8, 3:00 p.m. ET, 8:00 p.m. local
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
TV: GolTV (USA), Sky Sports 2 (UK)
For more on the Blaugranas, check out FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes.