Riqui Puig is expected to get his first start of the season on Wednesday, and will be joined by the hotly-tipped Ilaix Moriba in midfield as FC Barcelona take on cross-city foes Cornella in the Copa del Rey.
Refusing to go out on loan and fight for a place in Ronald Koeman’s line up, the La Masia graduate has won favor with the Dutchman for showing courage in last week’s Super Cup semifinal clash with Real Sociedad.
Before a tense penalty shootout with the Basques, Puig volunteered to take the fifth and final kick, converted, and put the Catalans through to the final lost in extra time to La Real’s bitter rivals Athletic Bilbao.
Turning 18 on Tuesday, big things are expected of Moriba, for whom contract norms were broken a couple of years ago when a bumper deal was offered to the Guinea-born sensation’s family to ward off interest from the likes of Juventus and Manchester City.
Together, the youngsters will be charged with controlling the center of the park and looking to avoid an upset similar to that which Real Madrid suffered on Tuesday when knocked out of the tournament by third tier Alcoyano.
Said to be seeking a Camp Nou exit due to a lack of playing time, Neto will start in goal for the Blaugrana.
For left back Jordi, who grew up in nearby L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, this fixture is extra special given that Cornella gave him his start in professional football once Barca discarded him from their mentioned youth academy.
In defense, though, it is instead Junior Firpo that will be joined by Samuel Umtiti, Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza standing-in at right back considering injuries to both Sergino Dest and Sergi Roberto.
In a 4-3-3 system, Miralem Pjanic provides pivot support to Puig and Moriba while on the front line, wingers Francisco Trincao and Konrad de la Fuente charge down the right and left wings either side of target man Martin Braithwaite.
Suspended after his 120th minute lunge at Asier Villalibre on Sunday, which saw him receive his first red card in 753 outings for FCB, usual captain Lionel Messi will not be available for today’s game nor Sunday’s away date at Elche.