Barcelona can call on Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal for the first time after a FIFA-imposed ban on the club registering new players as they seek to breach Espanyol’s resilient defence in the King’s Cup on Wednesday.
Barca’s five trophy haul in 2015 was all the more impressive given the sanction on fielding new signings that ends when the transfer window opens on Monday but, while they have coped well, reinforcements will boost Luis Enrique’s stretched squad.
He admitted his side failed to match the work-rate of the Espanyol defence in Saturday’s 0-0 La Liga draw that cost Barca top spot although they do have a game in hand.
The Catalans are unbeaten in 18 games but, aside from the two wins that saw them lift the Club World Cup last month, they have just one victory in five matches in all other competitions.
The King’s Cup holders now face Espanyol in the first leg of their last 16 clash at the Camp Nou.
“Being unbeaten is fine but if we want to win trophies then we have to win and score goals against any rival,” technical secretary Robert Fernandez told reporters after the Espanyol draw. “If we’re going to be champions it’s necessary to win.”
Turan and Vidal were signed ahead of this season from Atletico Madrid and Sevilla respectively but have had to watch from the sidelines due to the FIFA ban for the club’s alleged breach of rules on the transfer of foreign Under-18 players.
Soccer’s world governing body FIFA announced in April it had banned Barcelona from the transfer market for two consecutive windows and fined them 450,000 Swiss francs ($455,000).
With the prolific form of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez in Barca’s so-called trident attack, Turkey playmaker Turan is more likely to be used in a deeper role while Spaniard Vidal is an option for either a midfield spot or at right back.
“It has been a difficult four months as we have had two players who have been keen to play and we have wanted to see them in action,” said Fernandez.
“Still these months have worked well in letting them get to know our style of play and the system.”
There is also set to be a hard-fought derby between Real Betis and Sevilla after last month’s bad-tempered league clash which finished 0-0 and was littered with yellow cards.
La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid face city rivals Rayo Vallecano, while third-tier Cadiz play Celta Vigo having been given a bye after Real Madrid were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player inn their last-32, first-leg clash.
Real included Denis Cheryshev in their starting lineup at Cadiz in early December when he should have been serving a one-match ban. The Russia forward opened the scoring in a 3-1 win.