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Barcelona prepare for 2017 1st battle

…announced first match squad

As Copa del Rey opens for the year, FC Barcelona is ready for the first game of 2017 on Thursday against Athletic Club in the first leg of the round of 16.

The game pits the two Copa del Rey heavyweights against each other with Barça having won the competition 28 times and Athletic not far behind on 23. This highlights the importance of Thursday’s game.

For this fixture, Luis Enrique will have to do without the injured Jasper Cillessen, who came back from the winter break with an injury to his soleus in his left leg.

The coach has decided to leave Denis, Aleix Vidal and Mathieu out of the matchday squad. The French centre back has been cleared to return to competitive action by the club’s doctors following two months out.

Therefore, the list of 18 players for Thursday’s Copa game is: Ter Stegen, Masip, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Arda, A.Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Rafinha, Mascherano, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes and Umtiti.

Before the squad was announced the first team carried out their final training session ahead of their trip to Bilbao tomorrow. Luis Enrique put the available first team players and Barça B’s Mujica through their paces on the Tito Vilanova pitch at the Ciutat Esportiva.

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