FC Barcelona travel to Poland tomorrow, where they will take on Lechia Gdansk in a rescheduled friendly match which was supposed to kick off the Blaugrana’s pre-season campaign. Originally, the match was cancelled due to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding then-Barça head coach Tito Vilanova’s surprise resignation – but after the two clubs were able to compromise on a new date to play this fixture, the game will go ahead tomorrow evening at 20:45 CET. As a result, it’s possible that Barcelona’s blockbuster summer signing Neymar could make his long-awaited debut – although it has been suggested by some media outlets that the remainder of Barcelona’s Confederations Cup participants may stay at home.
Even if that is the case, Barcelona will be full of confidence after their crushing 7-0 victory over Valerenga, and while new coach Gerardo Martino is not going to travel to Poland after all, the players will once again be keen to impress.
Despite welcoming ten first-team players back to training today, Barcelona were expected to travel to Poland with a similar squad to the one that destroyed Valerenga on Saturday. In fact, there are just a few changes as Neymar travels, while Mascherano stays in Barcelona with Frank Bagnack replacing Jordi Quintilla as the 11th member of the B team in Jordi Roura’s 23-man squad.
While Victor Valdés has joined up with the rest of the squad, he – along with his Spanish international colleagues and Dani Alves – is not expected to play tomorrow evening, meaning that Jose Manuel Pinto will start his third successive friendly. Given the relative strength of the Lechia Gdansk squad, Pinto will probably have another quiet night – in fact, did anyone remember Pinto making a save, or even taking a goal-kick on Saturday?
Javier Mascherano has stayed in Barcelona, with Frank Bagnack replacing our Argentine centre-half in the squad, although one suspects that Bagnack will not start – instead, Sergi Gomez would be the more obvious choice, while Alex Song could perhaps challenge Gomez. After all, what better time to experiment than pre-season? Certainly, Song would not be missed in midfield given the talents of Ilie and Sergi Samper, both of whom are available and capable of filling it at pivote. On the other hand, regardless of his performance, we’re not likely to learn a lot from Song’s performance if he started at centre-half tomorrow – so what would be the point?
Just as long as he isn’t required at centre-half tomorrow, Alex Song will join Sergi Roberto and Jonathan dos Santos in midfield tomorrow, as the trio presumably prepare to make their last start of pre-season with Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fàbregas and Andrés Iniesta ready to return to action on Friday against Santos.
In attack, the big question is whether or not Neymar will start. So, with that in mind, will he?
Certainly Neymar is a better player than Cristian Tello, so on ability alone, he should walk into the starting XI ahead of the young Spaniard, but Tello scored against Valerenga a few days ago. He is further along in pre-season, so is likely to be in better condition – and obviously understands the system a lot better than Neymar does; so shouldn’t he get the nod?
Equally, starting Neymar may bring in more money for the Blaugrana in appearance fees, and while the fans will be anxious to see Neymar alongside Lionel Messi, the coaches must be just as curious to see this partnership in action – and in order to see the pair together, Neymar will have to start, as it’s not like Messi will play the full 90 minutes. All the while, in amidst the hype surrounding Messi and Neymar, we have Alexis Sánchez; with a little less pressure on his shoulders, will the Chilean continue to shine, just as he did on Saturday against Valerenga?
Led by a former Polish coach of the year in Michal Probierz and with one of the best stadiums in the country as their home, Lechia Gdansk look like they should be challenging for honours; but in recent seasons they have been average at best. Despite reaching the semi-final of the Polish Cup in two consecutive seasons, Gdansk haven’t finished higher than eighth place (in a 16 team league) since their return to the top-flight in 2008.
So, with the exception of their UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup tie with Juventus, this might just be one of the biggest matches in Lechia Gdansk’s history. Which explains the 25-man squad as each member of the team will hope to play at least a few minutes against the mighty Blaugrana.
24. Mateusz Bąk, 87. Sebastian Małkowski; 5. Krzysztof Bąk, 6. Jarosław Bieniuk, 26. Deleu, 4. Krzysztof Iwanowski, 2. Rafał Janicki, 7. Sebastian Madera, 28. Christopher Oualembo, 32. Adam Pazio; 19. Przemysław Czerwiński, 27. Paweł Dawidowicz, 10. Przemysław Frankowski, 11. Łukasz Kacprzycki, 30. Maciej Kostrzewa, 29. Kacper Łazaj, 22. Daisuke Matsui, 17. Marcin Pietrowski, 25. Bartłomiej Smuczyński, 8. Patryk Tuszyński, 13. Wojciech Zyska; 20. Paweł Buzała, 15. Adam Duda, 9. Piotr Grzelczak, 23. Damian Kugiel
Lechia Gdansk: DD
Barcelona (4-3-3): Pinto; Montoya, Gomez, Bartra, Adriano; Song, Roberto, JDS; Alexis, Messi, Neymar
Lechia Gdansk (4-2-3-1): Bak; Deleu, Madera, Bieniuk, Oualembo; Pietrowski, Dawidowicz; Kacpryzycki, Matsui, Frankowski; Grzelczak
Barcelona should walk this match, just as they did against Valerenga. Hopefully Neymar will be able to get a goal on his debut (let’s face it, he isn’t travelling to simply make up the numbers) and Barça will secure another big win. I’m going for a 6-0 win