MADRID, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- The first games in the last 32 of the Spanish Copa del Rey kick off on Friday night with FC Barcelona' s trip to play Cartagena the highlight of the evening.
The Copa del Rey (King's Cup) is a clumsy competition with many failings, not least the fact it is played over two legs, which tends to produce many games that have little relevance in the return match.
At this stage the side with the lowest standing in the league gets to play the first game at home with the return in the ground of the theoretically bigger club. That means that third tier side Cartagena can expect a packed ground for the visit of Barcelona.
Barca need a good display to put memories of two defeats in two days behind them, but the fact is that winning in Cartagena is the merely fulfilling expectations and anything other than a comfortable win (making the return leg in the Camp Nou before Christmas virtually irrelevant) would be seen as a continuation of what may or may not be a crisis at the club.
Coach Tata Martino will be able to welcome back Jordi Alba, whose pace at left back will be welcome, but will probably rest stars such as Neymar and Xavi Hernandez, while giving opportunities to players from the Barca-B team, who themselves play in a higher category that Friday' s rivals.
Friday also sees Juan Carlos Garrido make his debut as Betis coach away to another third tier side, Lleida, while Real Sociedad face a long trip to Algeciras in south-west Spain.
The seeding system which means sides playing in Europe automatically face the lowest category clubs is another factor which takes emotion out of the cup, although Racing Santander will be keen to show their former glories against Sevilla, while there are some interesting matches between Primera Liga outfits.
Villarreal will face Elche in a battle between two teams promoted last season and acquitting themselves well among the elite, although the game between Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano is likely to see two sides packed with substitutes as both have it clear in their mind that avoiding relegation is far more important than a good cup run.
Saturday sees Atletico Madrid travel to face Catalan third tier club San Andreu, while Real Madrid are away to Olimipc Xativa, both games the Madrid based sides should win with ease, while perhaps the most exciting tie of the round pits Celta Vigo against Athletic Club Bilbao, a club with a strong Cup tradition and beaten finalists two years ago.