Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has refused to use the injuries of Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Rafinha Alcantara as an excuse ahead of the second leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-final with Real Sociedad on Thursday night (26 January). Yet, the Catalans have a 1-0 advantage from the reverse fixture played at San Sebastian and the boss insisted that he has plenty of options to replace the two Spain internationals in the second leg of the competition.
The Copa del Rey holders are the favourites to make the semi-finals after Neymar's penalty kick in the first leg played at Anoeta gave them a 1-0 victory in the first leg.
However, Real Sociedad have been specially problematic to Barcelona in recent seasons due to their similar passing game and arrive at the Nou Camp as one of the revelations of La Liga – being placed in the fifth position of the table only behind Real Madrid, Sevilla, Barcelona themselves and Atletico Madrid.
The absences of Busquets and Iniesta in the middle of the park are a special concern against a team that earlier in the season held Barcelona to a 1-1 draw in La Liga by stealing them the possession of the ball. Luis Enrique did admit the importance of the two Barcelona stars but added that he still has plenty of options in his squad to form his midfielder trio on Thursday night.
"The truth is that I can't find any player of that level. (Sergio and Andres) are the best or two of the best in the worlds in their positions but I have good solutions," Luis Enrique said. "The injuries are part of football. Beyond regretting their absences I have to look for solutions. I am focused only on those who can participate and I have very good options."
Rafinha Alcantara, one of Iniesta's usual replacements, is also out to face Real Sociedad due to injury but Arda Turan, Denis Suarez, Andre Gomes and Ivan Rakitic could also occupy the role of the captain in the midfield.
Meanwhile, Gomes and Rakitic have also covered Busquet's absences this season due to their versatility to adapt to a deeper role.
Luis Enrique refused to reveal who will form the midfield but said that he has up to six different options in mind to replace Busquets. Yet, he suggested that Denis Suarez could also adapt to that position while the likes Javier Mascherano, Sergi Roberto and even Gerard Pique (during his early days at Zaragoza) have played there in the past.
"I would tell you who is going to play but I know that (Real Sociedad manager) Eusebio is listening to this press conference. I do not have just two options to replace Busquets. I have four," the Barcelona boss added. "I do not want to give clues to Eusebio but I also have Denis Suarez. The player who plays there will have difficulties because they close up the spaces a lot. We have to look for solutions to overcome their high press. I have six good options to cope without Busquets."
Yet, the Barcelona boss believes that the fact of playing at the Nou Camp should also play a key role in their hopes to get a spot in the Copa del Rey semi-finals to keep alive their hopes to revalidate the title.
"The Copa del Rey is an attractive competition and it has great memories for us," the Barcelona boss said. "We are not playing in Anoeta but in Camp Nou and there are various positives in our favour."