Fri, 20 May 2022

MADRID, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Real Madrid and FC Barcelona both play their respective Copa del Rey last 16 ties on Thursday, with Barcelona's visit to Athletic Club Bilbao's San Mames Stadium promising to produce a thrilling encounter.

Athletic take on Barca after reaching the final of the Spanish Supercup in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and memories are still fresh of Inaki Williams' late header that knocked Barca out of the quarterfinals two seasons ago.

The two sides drew 1-1 in Athletic's San Mames stadium in La Liga earlier this season, although Athletic had the best of the game before Memphis Depay scored an equalizing goal for Barca.

The home side is without midfielder Unai Vencedor, while Barca are still missing Sergi Roberto, Eric Garcia and Martin Braithwaite, but they will be able to call on Pedri, Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres after they returned from injury in their Supercup defeat 3-2 against Real Madrid.

Real Madrid travel to Elche after their conquest of the Supercup, and coach Carlo Ancelotti is without forward Marco Asensio with a muscle problem, while right back Dani Carvajal is sidelined with COVID-19.

Ancelotti will have to decide whether or not to rest some players after the Supercup and perhaps give match time to others such as reserve keeper Andriy Lunin, Nacho Fernandez, Fede Valverde and perhaps Eden Hazard, who didn't play a minute in Saudi Arabia.

If Hazard doesn't play then speculation will continue to grow about his future at the club.

Elche welcome Real Madrid after a weekend win at home to Villarreal which continues their improvement under coach Fran Rodriguez.

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