Just 24 hours after their 5-1 victory against Real Sociedad, Barcelona are in action again tonight as they host the newly promoted Sampdoria at the Camp Nou in the yearly Joan Gamper Trophy. Naturally, after playing just last night and with Real Madrid to face on Thursday, many first-team players will be sitting this one out, but it should provide a good opportunity for the fringe players to stake their claim for a place in Tito Vilanova’s squad.
Last year’s edition saw the Blaugrana face Italian opposition as well in the form of Napoli, and a strong Barca side ended up emerging 5-0 winners on that night, but given the circumstances surrounding this match, it’s doubtful we will see a repeat of that scoreline. The Serie A has not yet kicked off, but does so this weekend, with Sampdoria facing a difficult trip to the San Siro to face AC Milan, so it remains to be seen whether or not they will field a strong XI.
Getting straight down to business, Jose Manuel Pinto should start in goal tonight, and it is pretty obvious why. There is no need to risk Valdés, and this friendly provides the perfect opportunity for Pinto to get some game-time. After his performances in pre-season, Pinto will be high on confidence and it would be great if he could follow that up by keeping a clean sheet tonight.
In defense, Martin Montoya should start at right-back, with Marc Bartra likely to join him as the right-sided central defender. The only question is: who will join him in the middle of defense? Will it be Sergi Gomez, David Lomban, or someone else entirely? Marc Muniesa surely would have started if it were not for his knee injury, so in his absence, I think Tito will use this match as a chance to look at Sergi Gomez and assess whether or not he could feature for the first team in the early stages of the Copa del Rey. At left-back, one would assume that Adriano is the favourite to start given that he sat out yesterday’s win, but equally he may have been resting ahead of the Supercopa clash with Real Madrid. If that’s the case, expect to see Carles Planas or better yet, Alejandro Grimaldo at left-back, but a more likely scenario is that the Brazilian plays at least a half.
In midfield, Jonathan Dos Santos should start at pivote, especially as tonight’s match should come too soon for Alex Song. Ahead of JDS, Ibrahim Afellay and Sergi Roberto are the two most likely players to start in midfield, but it also depends on whether or not Tito wishes to deploy Afellay in attack. If so, then we might see Javier Espinosa, Joan Angel Roman or Rafinha once again.
Then, in attack, I would love to see a front-line of Ibrahim Afellay, Gerard Deulofeu and Jean-Marie Dongou. Ibi deserves some game-time, while Deulofeu has been simply excellent in recent weeks and Dongou was taken off during the B team’s 4-5 loss to Almeria despite get himself on the scoresheet. Other candidates for an attacking role include Thiago’s brother Rafinha who could fill in at centre-forward, Sergio Araujo who could do the same and Cristian Lobato who performed well out-wide during pre-season. Also keep an eye out for new signing Luis Alberto, who may also challenge for the centre-forward role.
FC Barcelona (4-3-3): Pinto; Montoya, Bartra, Sergi Gomez, Adriano; JDS, Sergi Roberto, Joan Roman; Afellay, Araujo, Deulofeu
It totally depends on the line-up, but I think Barcelona, who will still control possession, should have enough to defeat Sampdoria