FC Barcelona return to league action tonight when they travel to the Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Perez to take on Getafe in Saturday’s early kick-off. With Real Madrid starting immediately after the final whistle, Barcelona have the opportunity to momentarily extend their lead over Los Blancos to eight points. However, standing in their way is their toughest test of the league season so far. Can they maintain their 100% record with a fourth win from four or will the FIFA virus strike yet again?
Tito Vilanova has a few decisions to make headed into this game, with Jordi Alba, Andrés Iniesta and Alexis Sanchez all sidelined through injury or illness. The most obvious solution would be to bring in like-for-like replacements, but one can never be certain of what Tito is planning to do, especially at such an early stage in his career. With further questions over the fitness of the club’s South American internationals – including Lionel Messi – this is without a doubt the toughest test of Vilanova’s managerial career.
In goal, Victor Valdés will start after keeping a clean-sheet in the last match against Valencia. The Blaugrana only won by a solitary goal on that night, but truth be told, they never truly looked like dropping points. Getafe may not have the star names in attack like Roberto Soldado, but they will pose a threat nonetheless. So long as Valdés doesn’t make any errors at set-pieces and is his usual imposing self in one-on-one situations, then Barcelona stand a good chance of keeping Getafe at bay.
Defensively, a lot depends on the fitness of Javier Mascherano. The Argentine played the full 90 minutes in Wednesday’s draw with Peru, and if there are supposedly question marks over Lionel Messi’s fitness, then Mascherano cannot be at 100% either. However, while Gerard Piqué is almost guaranteed a start, Carles Puyol is in far from ideal condition to start. El Capitan is a warrior, but can we take the risk of playing him with a fractured cheekbone? It’s a tough decision. At right-back, expect Dani Alves to start, with Adriano on the other flank.
Then it gets a little bit tricky again. Alex Song was magnificent in his debut start against Valencia, and therefore must be an option for tonight’s game. On the other hand, Sergio Busquets has done nothing wrong in his time on the field. Could Tito push Busquets further forward given Iniesta’s injury? It’s a possibility, but Cesc Fàbregas seems the much more likely option to partner Xavi in the middle of the field. Thiago has received medical clearance, but it would be a huge surprise if he were to start after such an extended spell on the sidelines.
Moving onto the attack, Lionel Messi will start. Reports claim that there are question marks over his availability, but let’s be honest, given the injuries to Alexis and Iniesta, Messi needs to start. When you consider that Vilanova mentioned he will be asking Messi, we can safely assume Leo will say he is 100%. Pedro is likely to start in one of the other two spots, probably on the right-hand side of attack, leaving the left-wing berth open. Will Tito opt for Cristian Tello or David Villa? Perhaps something different altogether? The fan favourite would be David Villa, but I personally doubt he will start today with the return of the UEFA Champions League in mid-week.
With no new injury concerns, Luis Garcia’s side are at full-strength for tonight’s game so I expect minimal changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Deportivo in Jornada Three. Their back-four of Miguel Torres, Juan Valera, Alexis and Alberto Lopo are incredibly well-disciplined, but do lack pace, while Michel and Xavi Torres are decent midfield anchors, although again, neither pose a significant threat to the Blaugrana. Collectively, they are excellent, but if Barcelona can manufacture a one-on-one situation (i.e. Messi running at Alexis for instance), they should have a huge upper-hand.
FC Barcelona 4-0 Getafe CF – 10th April 2012 – La Liga
Barcelona romped to a comfortable 4-0 victory with goals coming from Alexis Sanchez (2), Lionel Messi and Pedro Rodriguez. Barca were in a 3-4-3 formation that night for what it’s worth.
FC Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdés; Alves, Mascherano, Piqué, Adriano; Busquets, Cesc, Xavi; Messi, Pedro, Tello
Getafe (4-2-3-1): Moya; Valera, Alexis, Lopo, Miguel Torres; Xavi Torres, Michel; Pedro Leon, Lafita, Barrada; Adrian
I expect a low-scoring encounter, with both teams on the score-sheet. 2-1 Barca for me.