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22 Jan, 2020 17:45

UD Ibiza vs Barcelona: Five reasons why Barca could suffer an upset against the team on the party island in the Copa del Rey

UD Ibiza vs Barcelona: Five reasons why Barca could suffer an upset against the team on the party island in the Copa del Rey

Barcelona will be without Lionel Messi in their second match under new coach Quique Setien away to high-flying 3rd-tier team playing on an artificial pitch on an island. Here are five reasons why Ibiza will be no party.

The match is being played on artificial turf

Far from the home comforts of Camp Nou, Ibiza play on a latest generation artificial pitch. This synthetic style of pitch has drawn criticism from some coaches and purists, but is ideal for clubs that need an ultra-reliable surface in all weather conditions and want to let other clubs use their ground, which can be valuable in providing added revenue.

“They won’t be used to the artificial surface,” reckons veteran striker and winger Sergio Cirio, a prolific threat who has a strike rate of almost a goal every other game since joining the club in 2017.

"We have to try to use that. We have to approach the games as we do in the league and try to use the home ground advantage and make life really hard for them.”

Star players are missing and a replay cannot save them

Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique have not travelled with Barca and Sergio Busquets is suspended. They won’t be able to rely on Busquets being back for a replay, either, as the format of the Copa del Rey has changed this season so that ties take place over a single leg.

That means, as Setien put it in Barca's official match preview“there will be no room for errors.” “The conditions won’t be what we are used to,” accepts the new coach.

“In the long term, this format is good because it means fewer matches, but these games are potential banana skins. Two legs would be better for us.”

Barca do, however, still arrive with a strong squad, including the likes of youngsters Carles Perez and Ansu Fati, who have shown they can hurt teams at a much higher level with mature performances in this season’s Champions League, where the latter this season became the tournament's youngest ever scorer.

Ibiza are flying high and have already caused an upset

Third in Segunda Division B with a nine-point gap over fourth-placed Pena Deportiva, Ibiza have lost just once in their last dozen matches and are nine without defeat.

In their last Copa del Rey match, they beat Albacete - the club against whom Messi scored his first goal for Barca - 5-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw at the Estadi Municipal de Can Misses.

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“We were able to beat a side from the second division,” says coach Pablo Alfaro. “They are not on the level of Barcelona, obviously, but they are a side that competes at a higher level than we do.”

The home side enter off the back of two 1-0 wins. Rather than dealing an unwelcome distraction to the squad, Ibiza’s players were determined to do well in the pair of Segunda B matches preceding their brush with superstars.

“When we were drawn against Barcelona, we knew that we still had two league matches to go before the game,” says Cirio.

“So we focused on those games first and achieved our aim by taking six points.”

They face opponents with momentum and massive motivation

Winger and defender Kike Lopez has no doubt that the hosts will arrive more determined than Barca.

“Look, in terms of enthusiasm and being pumped up for the game, they won’t beat us,” points out the 32-year-old, who came through Real Valladolid's youth system and has spent much of his career in Division B.

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“I’m convinced of that. We will try to play our style of football, try to put on a near-perfect performance and hope that it won’t be their day.

"There are a number of factors that have to come together but our aim is to compete at the maximum level possible.”

Alfaro has given an insight into his players’ thinking. “I believe that we would never forgive ourselves if we didn’t give 100 percent of our abilities and didn’t give everything we can. Our side tomorrow will be the best we can put out.”

The fans and atmosphere will galvanize Ibiza

The sold-out Can Misses has increased its capacity by almost 2,000 to just shy of 6,500 for Barca’s visit, bringing in one of the DJs the island is known for, Manu Gonzalez, on a special night for a club that was only formed in its current guise in 2015.

“The whole island is behind us, so that’s a big plus for us,” points out Cirio. “It’s our excitement and duty to make sure that all the excitement is not in vain and wasted.”

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Hundreds of children from football clubs all around the island were invited to their last cup win. “The atmosphere against Albecete was electric so you can imagine what will happen against Barcelona,” warns Alfaro.

“We will try to keep the flame alive the way we lit it the other day. That’s our intention.

"We have nothing to lose - we can only win, whatever the result will be.”