FC Barcelona host Getafe tomorrow as they look to keep the pressure on flatering league leaders Real Madrid. After Jose Mourinho’s side stumbled to a draw last night against Valencia, a win for Pep Guardiola’s side would pull them to within a single point of first place, a scenario that seemed impossible just a few weeks ago. Considering that the Madrid-based club emerged victorious when these two teams met earlier in the season, this is not a fixture to be taken lightly.
Getafe currently sit 10th in the table, but are just a point away from the final Europa League place currently occupied by Osasuna, and have taken 13 points from their last six games. That makes Getafe the form team from the capital, although they haven’t won an away game since the 12th of March in Jorge Molina’s second to last game in charge of Villarreal. Could they upset the odds at the Camp Nou? I sincerely doubt it.
Barcelona have won each of their last nine league games, and 12 of their last 13 in all competitions. In Lionel Messi they have the form striker in world football (history?). In fact, to provide some context, Leo has scored 26 goals in his last 13 games, while media darling and "form striker" Robin van Persie has scored the same amount in 31 league matches. With Leo in this kind of form, what hope does Getafe have?
Unfortunately, Victor Valdes did not keep a clean sheet against Zaragoza despite saving a penalty, but he has kept the opposition out in 10 of the 15 home matches this league season. Could tomorrow prove to be number 11 for Valdes? Well, with Dani Alves set to miss out through injury, Barcelona cannot call upon their first choice defense to help Valdes out.
Instead, Martin Montoya is set to deputise at right-back as he looks to build upon his impressive showings for the first team as well as impress Pep Guardiola with a view to securing his place in the first team squad for next season. I for one thought that Montoya was superb off the bench at the weekend, defending well and attacking efficiently. Unlike Alves who is often caught out of position, Montoya appears quite literally everywhere when on the field of play without ever compromising his defense. That is quite some skill to possess and one has to suspect that with Sergio Ramos playing more and more games in the centre of defense, a full international call-up may soon beckon.
In the centre of defense, Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano are set to start together for the second successive match as Gerard Pique continues to sit out with an injury, while Adriano is the only option at left-back. Those three were good against Zaragoza, but an improvement is needed if they want to keep Getafe out.
In defensive midfield, Sergio Busquets will almost certainly be restored to the starting line-up after Seydou Keita was simply anonymous in the pivote role against Zaragoza. Usually, a Barca pivote links defense to midfield, drops deep to cover at the back and circulates possession, but Keita does NONE of these. He doesn’t even destroy play, which begs the question: why does Pep continue to chose him as anchorman? Surely he can see that he prefers to operate with physical, yet technically gifted players in the pivote role, and Keita only meets the latter requirement? Well, whatever the case, I think Pep needs to venture into the market for an adequate rotational option.
With Cesc Fabrgeas sitting out through suspension, Thiago is likely to get another start, with Andres Iniesta the obvious choice to complement the young Spaniards ability in midfield. Iniesta was dearly missed at the weekend, and considering that he has not lost in over 50 successive La Liga games, his mere inclusion in the starting line-up seems to be enough to spur the Blaugrana on to victory.
Offensively, Messi will start purely because that man never rests (why would he?) and also because on average he contributes over 1.6 goals a game, while Getafe as a collective have "only" managed a little over a single goal per game. On averages alone, Lionel Messi alone could beat Getafe. Luckily, he will not have to though, and I fancy Pedro to start his second successive match after his late goal against Zaragoza, with the remaining spot likely to go to Isaac Cuenca ahead of Alexis Sanchez, if only because Guardiola will need the Chilean more at the weekend.
Predicted Line-Up: Valdes; Montoya, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano; Busi, Thiago, Iniesta; Pedro, Cuenca, Messi
Match Prediction: Barcelona to run riot and win by three goals at a minimum. I say 4-0 seems likely.