Sat, 27 Feb 2021

MADRID, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona looks to put their Spanish Supercup defeat to Athletic Club Bilbao behind them on Thursday when they kick off their Copa del Rey campaign away to third-tier Cornella.

Barca will be without Leo Messi for the game after he was given a rather lenient two-game ban for lashing out at Athletic Club striker Asier Villalibre in the closing minutes of Barca's 3-2 defeat to the Basques on Sunday night.

The ban, which Barca has said they will appeal, means the Argentinean will miss the short trip to Cornella on Barcelona's outskirts, and the weekend match away to struggling Elche.

The fact is that Messi would probably not have played anyhow against a rival that plays two levels below them and coach Ronald Koeman is likely to give minutes to some of his fringe players.

That should see Riqui Puig, Junior Firpo, Francisco Trincao and Samuel Umtiti all get some valuable game time. However, Koeman will be all too aware that Cornella produced the surprise of the competition in the last round when they knocked out La Liga leaders, Atletico Madrid.

Athletic Club, who still has to play last season's Copa del Rey final, also kicks off this season's cup campaign with a visit to Ibiza, who beat Celta Vigo 5-2 last round.

There have been celebrations in Bilbao after the Supercup win and although new coach Marcelino Garcia Toral will also give fringe players the chance to show what they can do, he will also make sure there is no overconfidence from the 'Super-Champions'.

Atletico Madrid is in league action on Thursday with the leaders making the long trip to face Eibar.

Moussa Dembele could make his Atletico debut in the Ipurua Stadium, although Atletico coach Diego Simeone could rest striker Joao Feliz even though a win would lift Atletico seven points clear of Real Madrid and 10 ahead of Barcelona and still with a game in hand.

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