If I had to guess, I think this is where we start playing more or less full strength XIs in the Copa Del Rey. Not only is this our first match against La Liga competition, but it’s also better competition than we will likely face Saturday in the actual league, and a berth in the two legged semi finals is at stake. Win this one, and we can seriously contemplate our odds of getting a trophy.
Of course, we would be the team to catch Levante days after they beat Real Madrid. I happened to watch that match, and the red card against Madrid was what I would call a ‘forced error’ in that the defender basically had to choose between giving up a goal or taking a red. They then proceeded to outplay Madrid for basically the entire match, and won the xG battle (which even without the penalty was about even). They are 9th in La Liga for a reason, this is a good side.
I am curious to see how near a full strength XI we get from Levante because after facing us, most of their upcoming schedule is just brutal. They get Granada and desperate to survive Osasuna at home, then Atletico Madrid twice in a row in league matches (as Atleti makes up their games in hand) then face Athletic Club and Real Sociedad. The semi finals would fall in the middle of all those matches and Levante isn’t the deepest team out there, so Paco Lopez has a tough decision to make.
As I said above, I more or less expect us to go with a strong lineup here, with the exceptions being at keeper (where I think Rulli will continue as the cup keeper), striker (where the still fresh off of injury Paco probably won’t start) and right wing, where Gerard is training but not yet fully fit. I also expect our normal left back rotation to continue, but I consider us to have two starters at that position:
It’s possible that newly returned Andrei Ratiu gets a look in at right back at some point in this match, but I don’t see him getting the start.
As we continue to suffer draws in the league, our Cup form has been a bit of a relief. I expect that to continue and we’ll win 2-1.
Keep in mind that if we win this, our squad depth will be pushed to its absolute max in the next 30 days as we would have two Copa matches and two Europa League matches to go on top of four La Liga matches in that time. In essence, the worth of our entire season gets decided in the next four weeks.