FC Barcelona return to the Camp Nou tomorrow, as they prepare to host lowly Real Valladolid and secure their eighth successive victory under the guidance of Argentine head coach, Gerardo Martino. With seven wins from seven in La Liga, Barcelona are edging ever closer to Real Madrid’s record of nine wins – a record they could fittingly beat with an El Clasico victory in three weeks time – but with their 1-0 win over Celtic on Tuesday, the Blaugrana also grabbed their seventh successive win in all competitions.
No disrespect to either Real Valladolid, or Barcelona’s next opposition after the international break, Osasuna, but that streak should extend to nine over the coming weeks, even if Barça have been somewhat ravaged by injuries. Lionel Messi is sidelined, as are regular starters Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba and club captain Carles Puyol – and the squad that was tipped to be "too thin" to deal with an injury crisis is coping admirably.
The defense that supposedly needed desperate reinforcements has conceded just once in its last five matches and kept a staggering four clean sheets in its last four away fixtures; in fact, pretty much everything is going according to plan for Gerardo Martino. His rotation policy has been well-received and if the past few weeks are any indication, Martino might etch his name into the record books sooner rather than later.
Oier Olazábal is the only available player not to have been called up for tomorrow’s match, as despite rumours to the contrary, Carles Puyol did not receive the medical green light to return to action. Similarly, Lionel Messi continues to miss out through injury, along with Jordi Alba – who is expected to return after the international break.
Therefore, expect a similar starting line-up tomorrow, as Victor Valdés continues in goal, with Gerard Piqué and Marc Bartra paired together in the centre of defense. Bartra has been in inspired form as of late – although if we’re being pessimistic, you could point to the calibre of opposition; it’s all well and good dominating against Almeria and Celtic, but is Bartra capable of excelling against La Liga’s heavyweights? Unfortunately, we’re unlikely to receive an answer tomorrow evening. With Jordi Alba still sidelined, Adriano and Dani Alves are expected to start on either side of defense, although Martin Montoya could deputise if Martino fancied a change.
Sergio Busquets could and should start at pivote, with Xavi Hernández and Sergi Roberto likely to complete the midfield. Cesc Fàbregas’ services are likely to be required upfront, and ‘Tata’ hinted that Andrés Iniesta would be granted a deserved rest ahead of the international break. Plus, what’s stopping Sergi Roberto from stealing the show, just as Marc Bartra has done in the past couple of games?
In attack, Fàbregas is tipped to continue as the "false nine", though the Catalan midfielder may face competition from Neymar. The Brazilian’s presence in the centre of attack would enable Fàbregas to move back into his customary midfield role, allowing Cristian Tello a chance to start in his preferred position on the left-wing. Whatever the case, Alexis Sánchez should start on the right after his beautiful cross gifted Barcelona a deserved winner at Celtic Park on Tuesday evening.
Alvaro Rubio, Lluis Sastre, Victor Perez, Oscar, Daniel Larsson and Manucho are all ruled out through injury, leaving Real Valladolid coach Juan Ignacio Martinez a little short of options for tomorrow’s trip to the Camp Nou. As a result of this injury crisis, Martinez has been forced to call up a couple of youth players – including centre-half Alberto Rodriguez, who is the son of former Barcelona full-back Juan Carlos Rodriguez. Juan Carlos actually started Barça’s 1992 European Cup final win over Sampdoria, meaning that tomorrow’s fixture is likely to bring back fond memories for the Rodriguez family.
FC Barcelona 2-1 Real Valladolid – 19th May 2013 – La Liga
With the title in the bag, Barcelona welcomed Real Valladolid to the Camp Nou and put in a professional performance to win 2-1, only conceding to a late Victor Perez penalty kick.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Bartra, Montoya; Busquets, Xavi, Roberto; Alexis, Fàbregas, Neymar
Valladolid (4-2-3-1): Marino; Rukavina, Rueda, Valiente, Pena; Baraja, Rossi; Ebert, Osorio, Omar; Guerra
Barcelona weren’t at their best last weekend against Almeria, but even without Lionel Messi, they should run riot against Real Valladolid with the Camp Nou pitch to work with. However, the Valladolid defense is somewhat stingy, only allowing nine goals despite their poor league position – so I’m going for a 3-0 home win.
More from Barca Blaugranes:
- FC Barcelona News: 4 October 2013; 18 in Squad to Face Real Valladolid, Seven Called Up by Vicente Del Bosque
- FC Barcelona News: 3 October 2013; Barça Players Return from Scotland, Victor Valdes Becomes Father for Third Time
- Champions League: Marc Bartra Wows Barcelona Fans, But is He Enough?
- From the Mind of Xoel: Neymar Proves He Is Barça's Plan B
- FC Barcelona News: 2 October 2013; Barça Victorious Against Celtic, Anniversary of Carles Puyol's Debut