Celta Vigo will once again be without star forward Nolito for the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final against Sevilla on Thursday.
Nolito, a reported target for Barcelona during the mid-season transfer window, has scored eight times in 15 appearances for Celta this season but last featured in the victory over Espanyol on December 12.
A hamstring problem has sidelined him since then and, although the 29-year-old is stepping up his recovery, the match at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan has arrived too soon.
“He has better and worse days,” Celta coach Eduardo Berizzo said. “I do not want to force a situation that can cause a relapse.
“Every time he comes into contact with the ball he feels discomfort. For this, I want to build up a lot more training time before he plays a game.”
Nolito opened the scoring when these teams met in Andalusia in September, Celta winning that La Liga game 2-1, but Sevilla coach Unai Emery believes the visitors will still carry a substantial threat without their talisman – as evidenced by a shock quarter-final triumph over Atletico Madrid.
“With no Nolito they won 3-2 at the Calderon, making a great game,” he told a news conference.
“They are a great team with great players.
“The goal is to win without conceding a goal but Celta are used to scoring goals and have scored a number of important goals away from home.”
Emery, seeking to book a final against holders Barcelona or his former club Valencia, is boosted by the return of playmaker Ever Banega from a calf injury, while winger Vitolo is available after he sat out Sunday’s 3-1 win over Levante through suspension.
Banega, another former Valencia man, is negotiating a new contract at Sevilla but Emery does not anticipate the Argentine being distracted.
“I see a very focused player who wants to do important things, who is very involved in the group,” he said.
“He is very experienced and I am convinced that he will play at a very high level.”
New signings Diogo Figueiras and Federico Fazio – the latter returning to Sevilla on loan from Tottenham – will not feature.
Chile international Marcelo Diaz is in the Celta matchday squad for the first time since he joined from Bundesliga side Hamburg nursing a hamstring complaint.
“Sevilla is a large team in our league, a champion team, but we consider ourselves able to eliminate them,” Berizzo said.
“Sometimes illusions, dreams and everything that has to do with team spirit equals the strength of any rival. That it is our great strength.”
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