Team news – Barcelona to ring the changes at Real Murcia

A much-changed Barcelona will travel to third-tier Real Murcia when they begin the defence of their Copa del Rey crown on Tuesday.

Boss Ernesto Valverde has opted to rest the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Andres Iniesta and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen for the first leg of the last-32 tie.

The 53-year-old has included four Barcelona B players in his 16-strong squad, but still expects a tough test.

“It’s one of the most difficult games,” Valverde, whose side lead LaLiga by five points nine games into the season, said at a press conference.

“It’s important to be prepared mentally going into the match. It will be difficult because our opponents are from a different division but they will grow against us.

“Murcia are a team with history. We are looking at it as another tie, we want to go ahead to defend our title.

“Football is a permanent test and we have to prove ourselves all the time. Tomorrow there will be changes, but the objective is still the same. We have to respond against a team who will be motivated and have the whole city behind them.”

Valverde revealed that former Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen would likely be one of those to come into the side.

Murcia sit 16th in the Segunda B Division table and head into their daunting task having just been beaten 3-2 at San Fernando.

Coach Jose Maria Salmeron acknowledges the honour associated with lining up against Barca, but a lengthy road trip between outings has left him less than enthused by the timing.

“We will see this afternoon how the players are after yesterday’s game and a seven-hour bus ride,” AS quoted him as saying.

“We are tired because we arrived back later than four in the morning and it was a blow not to score a point after making an effort to equalise a 2-0.

“This game does not come at a very suitable time…but it is not a problem because it is a very nice match for the city and a prize. We will try to compete and give everything.”

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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