MATCH PREVIEW – Barça travel to Cartagena without Piqué, Xavi and Iniesta, whilst Puyol and Alba return

Neymar celebrates a goal / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
Barça travel to third tier Cartagena without Piqué, Xavi and Iniesta, whilst Puyol and Alba return

Jordi Alba could return after being out since September

Gerardo Martino’s side open their Spanish Cup campaign tonight when they face third tier Cartegena at 22.00. Although Cartegena are on paper the underdogs, Barça will be aware that any slip up could cost them dear and teh boss himself insisted yesterday: “it’s a very important game” and coming on the back of defeats in Amsterdam and Bilbao, teh team need to get back to winning ways.

Changes in the squad

With 15 players travelling to Cartegena – including Adama and Dongou from Barça B – Martino has rested Piqué, whilst both Xavi and Iniesta have picked up knocks and are also left behind. On the plus side, Puyol and Jordi Alba – injured since September – both return to the squad.

FC Cartagena strong at home

The third diviion utfit may well be minnows compared to Barça, but they are enjoying a good start to the season, sitting third in Group IV and with just one defeat in eight games played at home so far this year – winning all the rest. Striker   Fernando, with 9 goals, is the principal reference point for a side who have beaten  Guadalajara, Huesca and Tudelano to get this far in the Cup and are determined to pull off a famous giant killing result – in the first leg at least!