Neymar and Suarez rested as Barca begin Copa defense
Luis Enrique will rest Neymar and Luis Suarez as Barcelona begin their Copa del Rey title defense at Segunda B side Villanovense on Wednesday.
The Spanish giants head into the first leg of their last-32 clash after Sunday’s 3-1 win over Eibar in the Primera Division.
Suarez’s hat-trick handed Barca their seventh league win of the campaign and kept the defending champions second in the standings, level on 21 points with leaders Real Madrid.
"We need to keep improving, but I’m satisfied with the work done by the team," head coach Enrique said on his club’s official website.
"We know the importance of Luis Suarez. What he gives you is invaluable, non-negotiable. He’s essential and irreplaceable."
La Liga’s leading scorer Neymar and Suarez have remained in Barcelona to prepare for Saturday’s league game at Getafe.
Reserve players Gerard Gumbau, Sergi Samper, Wilfrid Kaptoum and Aitor Cantalapiedra all trained with Barca’s first team this week and have traveled to Extremadura for the first leg.
Barca are without injured players Lionel Messi, Rafinha and Sergi Roberto, while captain Andres Iniesta is also absent.
The Spanish midfielder has recovered from a hamstring injury that had kept him sidelined since September 21 but is likely to return this weekend.
Wednesday’s match at the Romero Cuerda Stadium will be a big celebration for Villanovense.
The club based in Villanueva de la Serena has added temporary seating to increase their stadium capacity to 3,000 for their biggest game of the year.
"It is a great challenge," Villanovense president Jose Maria Tapia said on Barca’s website.
"For us it is an immensely joyous moment to come up against the current European, La Liga and Cup champions, while we are one of the most modest teams in the Segunda B."
Villanovense, coached by Julio Cobos, are 11th in Spain’s third tier and have taken 13 points from 10 games.
Barca defender Javier Mascherano, who is set to miss Saturday’s encounter through suspension after being sent off against Eibar, is expected to start on Wednesday.
The Blaugrana host Villanovense in the return leg on December 2 before heading to Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup. The remaining Copa ties will take place on December 1 and 15.