Although La Liga and especially Champions League are the priorities for Barcelona, the team should not completely dismiss the importance of the Copa del Rey (CdR) this season. Already in a great position in La Liga, another triumph in the cup would likely give Barcelona a fourth domestic double in five seasons and maybe even a third treble since 2009 if they can get the job done in Europe. Given Valverde’s reluctance to rotate in the league, the cup also provides an opportunity to give certain key players a rest and those on the fringe some much needed minutes. Moving forward in the competition, Valverde should strive to balance both of those goals while still picking a strong enough to make it through.
Right now, Valverde’s preferred eleven for a big match would probably be this: Ter Stegen, Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba, Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur, Messi, Suarez, Dembele. Of that group, I think Valverde should use those around 30 or older in the CdR as little as possible until the final. That would include Messi, Suarez, Rakitic, Busquets, Alba, and Pique. The exceptions to that would be if Barcelona draws Real Madrid in an earlier round or maybe bringing Messi and Suarez on if a tie is level with 30 minutes left in the second leg. But given how fatigued all six of those players looked towards the end of last season, playing them too much more than that in the CdR could prove costly in the remaining stages of the Champions League.
As for players on the fringe of the starting eleven, there are six who I believe should definitely start in the CdR for now: Cillessen, Semedo, Murillo, Coutinho, Alena, and Malcom. For the other five spots, Valverde could pick from the likes of Munir, Miranda, Vidal, Lenglet, Arthur, Roberto, and Dembele depending on what the time calls for. With Vermaelen back from a calf injury in 7-10 days and Umtiti set to start training in a 2-3 weeks, that will give even more flexibility to rotate players in the upcoming stages of the competition.
Approach Versus Levante
In the first leg of the tie against Levante this Thursday, I think Barcelona should use a lineup such as this: Cillessen, Semedo, Murillo, Lenglet, Miranda, Vidal, Roberto, Alena, Malcom, Munir, Coutinho. A similar setup could also work in the second leg, but the likes of Messi, Dembele, and Suarez should be on the bench in case Barca is tied or trailing towards the end.