FC Barcelona will be looking to put consecutive El Clasico defeats behind them tomorrow when they host relegation-threatened Deportivo La Coruna at the Camp Nou. "Super" Depor pulled off one of the greatest UEFA Champions League comebacks of all-time back in 2004 when they overturned a 4-1 deficit to eliminate AC Milan, but the Galician side have struggled in recent years – and barring another dramatic comeback, look set to drop back into the Segunda at the season’s end. Of course, the Blaugrana on the other hand appear to be coasting towards their 22nd La Liga title and have their eyes on a remuntada of their own next Tuesday; can Barça restore some much-needed momentum tomorrow, or will Deportivo be able to pull off an upset?
I’m sure you already knew, but Barcelona take on AC Milan next Tuesday in arguably their most important match of the season, so it would be a surprise if we saw anything other than a second-string line-up tomorrow. Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule, which we will address later, but just who is in line for a start tomorrow?
In goal, Jose Manuel Pinto is set to start his first La Liga match for ten months following Victor Valdés’ red card against Real Madrid. Valdés received his marching orders after the final whistle for arguing with referee Miguel Perez Lasa and is suspended for the next four league matches, although that may be reduced upon appeal. However, should we really be concerned? On paper, Barcelona’s next four La Liga matches are rather straight-forward and given Valdés’ contract situation, the Blaugrana will need to get used to playing without the Catalan at one stage or another – why not now?
In defense, I would like to think that Martin Montoya will start on the right, with Javier Mascherano and Gerard Piqué likely to start at centre-back. Marc Bartra could have been in line for a rare appearance, but has since been ruled out through injury; perhaps this opens the door for Eric Abidal’s return? The Frenchman hasn’t played in over a year but maybe, just maybe we will see him take to the field tomorrow? That leaves just one spot left to fill – left-back – and I fully expect to see Adriano Correia start tomorrow evening.
Alex Song could and probably should start at pivote tomorrow, with Thiago Alcântara and Cesc Fàbregas likely to join the Cameroonian in midfield. Cesc Fàbregas spoke out this week, stating that he believes this squad of players is "due" a historic comeback. Of course, we’d all love to see it happen, and we stand a better chance of pulling it off if Cesc Fàbregas can up his game to the standard we grew accustomed to in the first half of the season. Xavi Hernández returned to training today, but isn’t expected to feature tomorrow.
In attack, Lionel Messi will start, inevitably many will complain but to get in before the criticism of Roura starts (hell, it never ended in the first place), why shouldn’t we start Messi? He got virtually the whole week off, has scored in his last sixteen La Liga appearances and to be frank, we stand a far better chance of claiming victory tomorrow with Messi on the field. After the past few weeks, we could do with a little "head-start" so to speak. So, the only question is who starts alongside Messi? David Villa? Cristian Tello? Pedro? Alexis Sánchez? I’d go for Alexis and Pedro, but I expect Roura will opt for Alexis and Tello.
Deportivo La Coruna 4-5 FC Barcelona – 20th October 2012 – La Liga
Barcelona nearly gave up a three-goal lead away at the Riazor, but thanks to goals from Lionel Messi, the Blaugrana managed to secure the three points.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Pinto; Montoya, Piqué, Mascherano, Adriano; Song, Thiago, Fàbregas; Alexis, Messi, Tello
Off the back of two consecutive defeats, Barcelona have a point to prove – and I expect them to prove it in a convincing manner. I’m going for a 4-1 home win.