Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez has made a surprise call ahead of his team’s Copa del Rey Clasico against Real Madrid in the first leg of their semi-final tie at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The manager has called up 19-year-old wonderkid Estanis Pedrola to the first-team squad for the match and talked up the youngster in a pre-match press conference ahead of the tie at the Santiago Bernabeu.
“He’s a player we know from last season. He made his debut against Mallorca,” he told reporters. “He’s a player who is good in one-on-ones, he’s fast, can score goals, he can cut inside, he’s in good form.”
Pedrola has been called up after impressing for the reserve team and following an injury to top scorer Robert Lewandowski. The Poland international has been ruled out with a hamstring strain and is unavailable for the match.
Xavi is short of attacking options for the trip to the Spanish capital, as Ousmane Dembele also remains sidelined through injury. Raphinha, Ansu Fati, and Ferran Torres are his only senior options, with Barca Atletic’s Angel Alarcon joining Pedrola in the squad.
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Pedrola Double Impresses Xavi?
Pedrola made his first-team debut under Xavi last season in January but could be set for another chance to impress due to the injury situation at Camp Nou. The 19-year-old has been back in action after a lengthy spell out with a back injury but has impressed for the reserves.
The left winger scored a double last time out in a 3-0 win for Barca Atletic against Alcoyano which may just have convinced Xavi to call him up for the game against Real Madrid.
Pedrola spoke after the match and said his impressive form is due to the hard work he’s had to put in to return to his best form after injury, as reported by Sport.
“There’s no secret. It’s daily work in training, fighting, believing in one’s self. And you get the results at the weekend. It’s about going bit by bit, adding each day, game by game, and scoring goals to help the team,” he said. “I feel very comfortable after (getting back from) the injury and touch wood, it stays like this.”
Ansu Fati Passed Fit Too
Xavi will also have Ansu Fati available after the forward was passed fit for the game. Fati has been out with a bruised knee, and missed the defeat to Almeria, but is back and available for selection.
The 20-year-old is enduring a difficult season, scoring just 3 La Liga goals so far this season, but Xavi urged his forward to make the difference against Real Madrid.
“Today he has returned to training with the group and it is great news,” he added. “It was only a bruise. I see him very content, happy and motivated and he has to be important.”
Injuries to Pedri, Dembele and Lewandowski and home advantage mean Real Madrid will be favorites for victory on Thursday. However, the tie will be played over two legs, with the return scheduled for Wednesday, April 5 at the Camp Nou.
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