Barca visit Levante as they look for 5th consecutive Cup win

TNN Bureau. Updated: 1/9/2019 8:06:49 PM Sports and Culture

Madrid, Jan 9 (IANS) FC Barcelona will continue their efforts to become the first side ever to win the Spanish Copa del Rey on five consecutive occasions when they visit Levante in the first leg of their last 16 tie on Thursday.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde is likely to make changes to the side which won 2-1 away to Getafe on Sunday to move 5 points clear at the top of the Liga Santander. Players such as Nelson Semedo, Malcom and Phillipe Coutinho (who has struggled for game time in recent weeks) are all in line for a start along with goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, reports Xinhua news agency.

Jeison Murillo could also make his debut at the heart of the Barca defence after joining on loan from Valencia.

One player who won't be getting the chance to play, however, is young forward Munir El Haddadi, who has rejected the offer of a new contract and has reportedly agreed to join Sevilla for next season.

Barcelona won 5-0 away to Levante in the league shortly before Christmas in a game where Leo Messi scored another hat-trick. Valverde has to decide whether or not to start with his star player in the side or on the bench.

Levante meanwhile haven't won in their last four games and coach Paco Lopez will also probably rest players ahead of their weekend league trip to play Atletico Madrid.

Thursday will also see Athletic Club Bilbao play at home to Sevilla. Athletic have taken 8 points from 4 league games since Gaizka Garitano replaced Eduardo Berizzo as coach and have climbed out of the relegation zone.

Garitano has to weigh the club's traditional affinity with the Copa against the need to continue climbing the league table, and he too will rotate his side, and neither team will want to give too many secrets away before they meet again in San Mames in the league on Sunday afternoon.

Thursday will also witness Betis at home to Real Sociedad, who will travel with their morale boosted in the wake of their 2-0 win in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Sunday.

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