Friday, 23 December 2011

Lionel Messi Rested in Hospitalet

Barcelona powered into the last 16 of the Copa del Rey with an emphatic 9-0 victory over minnows L'Hospitalet.

Star man Lionel Messi did not feature but coach Pep Guardiola selected a strong side against a team from the third tier of Spanish football.

Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas all started, and Barca raced into a 5-0 advantage at half-time.

The 10-0 aggregate win came only four days after Barca's 4-0 victory over Santos in the Club World Cup in Japan.

With four top-flight teams - Atletico Madrid, Villarreal, Real Betis and Zaragoza - having gone out of the Spanish domestic competition at the fourth-round stage, Guardiola took no chances after his side were only one goal up from the first leg last month.

Aside from Messi, only Victor Valdes, Eric Abidal and Dani Alves from the regular starting line-up were rested.

The nine-goal rout at the Nou Camp did not come without cost, however, as Iniesta injured his right thigh and will be sidelined for two weeks, while Fabregas also appeared to be hurt in the second half.

But speedy young winger Isaac Cuenca seized his opportunity to impress, scoring twice and winning two penalties - including Pedro Rodriguez's 11th-minute opener.

Thiago Alcantara (2), substitute Cristian Tello (2), Iniesta and Xavi were also on the scoresheet.

The Catalan giants, who have won the competition 25 times, will play Osasuna in the next round, with rivals Real Madrid facing big-spending Malaga.

If Barcelona and Real Madrid were to both make progress to the quarter-finals they would meet each other in a two-legged tie on 18 and 25 January.

"To be champion you have to beat all the teams, whether they are from lower divisions or the best," said Real Madrid director of football Miguel Pardeza.

"We are not thinking about [a meeting with Barcelona] yet and are focused on the Malaga tie.