Barca eye return to the top in Cup final rehearsal


MADRID: Barcelona have the chance to go top of La Liga for the first time since October in a Copa del Rey final dress rehearsal when they visit Alaves on Saturday.

Alaves edged out Celta Vigo on Wednesday to reach the final for the first time, whilst nine-man Barca had to survive a second leg onslaught from Atletico Madrid in midweek to make a fourth straight final.

However, Barca’s quest for a second treble in three seasons faces more severe tests this week as a visit to Mendizorroza is followed by a Valentine’s Day trip to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday in the Champions League.

The champions trail Real Madrid by a point, who also have two games in hand, but, with Madrid not in action until later on Saturday at Osasuna, victory will take Barca top for a few hours at least for the first time since October 22.

Barca boss Luis Enrique has almost a fully-fit squad to choose from as Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta made their return from injury as second-half substitutes in midweek, whilst Neymar returns from suspension.

“We are delighted that Busquets and Iniesta have recovered,” said Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic.

“They are very important players and (having been out) they can give even more of what they bring to the team now.”

However, Enrique has followed a strict rotation policy throughout a demanding fixture schedule in January and February so the likes of Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto could be rested.