Preview: Ceuta vs. Barcelona

Preview: Ceuta vs. Barcelona

Fresh from clinching his first piece of silverware as Barcelona manager, Xavi now sets out to avoid a Copa del Rey giant killing as the Blaugrana meet third-tier Ceuta in the last 16 on Thursday night.

The visitors to the Alfonso Murube Stadium beat Real Madrid 3-1 in the final of the Supercopa de Espana last time out, while the hosts drew 2-2 with the Blancos’ Castilla side.

Already possessing the know-how when it comes to knocking first-tier sides out of the Copa del Rey, Ceuta overcame Utrera and Ibiza in the earlier rounds of the tournament before facing a daunting last-32 meeting with Elche on January 3, but their magical run would not stop there.

Rodri Rios struck the game’s only goal from the penalty spot to send Jose Juan Romero’s team through to the last 16 for the first time in their history, which serves as a rather large silver lining to their ongoing struggles in the Primera Division RFEF.

Cueta came back from two goals down to rescue a point against Real Madrid Castilla on Sunday, but their winless run in Group 1 of the third tier now stands at four matches, and they sit rock bottom of the standings in 20th place with just eight points to their name from 19 matches.

An immediate relegation back down to the fourth tier is drawing ever nearer by the week for the Copa del Rey last-16 participants, although they have only suffered one defeat from their last five games at the Alfonso Murube Stadium and have failed to score in just one of their last 17 games on familiar turf.

Perhaps facing an awkward meeting with his opposite number Juan Romero after claiming that Barcelona got “lucky” with the Copa del Rey draw, Xavi could soon be made to eat his words if Ceuta can stun the footballing landscape and knock out the 31-time

However, not many will be holding their breath over that eventuality, with Barcelona returning to Copa del Rey duties after clinching the Supercopa de Espana crown, beating Real Betis on penalties in the semi-finals before Gavi, Pedri and Robert Lewandowski netted against Real Madrid in the showpiece event.

No stranger to winning trophies in Catalan colours during his playing days, Xavi is itching for more success in the dugout as his side sit three points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga table, and eight of their last nine games in all competitions have ended in victory.

La Blaugrana were given quite the scare in the last 32 of the Copa del Rey against Intercity, though, as they went ahead three times but were pegged back on each occasion by 21-year-old Oriol Soldevila, whose astonishing hat-trick was ultimately in vain as Ansu Fati sealed a 4-3 win in extra time.

One would therefore expect Xavi to have learned his lesson about commenting on “lucky” cup draws, as Barcelona aim to avoid a second successive last-16 exit after going out at this stage to Athletic Bilbao – whom they beat in the 2020-21 final – last year.

Ceuta and Barcelona have previously met three times in the Copa del Rey, with the Blaugrana prevailing 3-0 in the 2000-01 third round before a 7-1 aggregate success in the 2010-11 fourth round, where Pedro and Maxwell both netted in a 2-0 first-leg win at the Alfonso Murube Stadium.

Ceuta Copa del Rey form:

Barcelona Copa del Rey form:

Barcelona form (all competitions):

We say: Ceuta 1-4 Barcelona
As if Ceuta did not already have enough motivation to claim a historic scalp over Barcelona, Juan Romero has affirmed that his side will not give the Supercopa de Espana winners a moment’s rest after being rubbed up the wrong way by Xavi.

The third-tier hosts know how to find the back of the net at home and will take confidence from seeing Intercity put three past a rejigged Blaugrana backline, but we do not expect any shocks on Thursday and are backing Barcelona’s plethora of attacking options to propel their side into the quarter-finals.

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