FC Barcelona will be hoping to make it seven wins from their past seven matches on Wednesday night, when they welcome Getafe CF to the Camp Nou in the first-leg of their Copa del Rey Round of 16 clash with the Madrid-based outfit. Just a few weeks ago, the Blaugrana overturned a two-goal deficit to defeat Getafe 5-2, and as a result, will be confident of their chances of a comfortable win tomorrow.
However, with a crunch clash with Atletico Madrid on their minds, Barcelona may be distracted, and in recent years, they have struggled with the hectic January schedule. Getafe may have La Liga fixtures to focus on as well, but really, the prestige that would accompany a knockout win over the Blaugrana is far greater than a measly La Liga victory or two.
And if Getafe could storm into a 2-0 lead in La Liga, why wouldn’t they have a chance in this tie? Barcelona will rotate their squad to some extent, meaning that the fringe players who come into the team will have to perform to their very best. Are they up to the task? Will Barcelona put one foot into the quarter-finals with a win tomorrow?
Dani Alves, Marc Bartra and Xavi Hernández will all be watching tomorrow’s match from the stands after Gerardo Martino made the technical decision to leave the trio out of the squad. However, their absence is more than compensated for, as Lionel Messi returns to the squad for the first time in over six weeks. In less than a week’s time, Messi will find out whether he has secured his fifth successive Ballon d’Or, but knowing the Argentine, he will be looking forward to returning to action just that little bit more than any individual honours.
Jose Manuel Pinto will start tomorrow’s match between the sticks, and will be looking for his third clean sheet of the season. Despite filling in for Victor Valdés in six matches, Pinto kept just one clean sheet in his time as Barça’s temporary number one, which, along with his age, probably explains why Barcelona are looking to the transfer market for their next goalkeeper. However, for matches like this, you really don’t need a superstar, and a veteran like Pinto can really complement the rest of the squad.
Martin Montoya and Adriano Correia will likely start on either side of defense, with both players unlikely to start against Atletico Madrid on Saturday night. Similarly, Carles Puyol will start in the heart of defense and barring a dramatic change of heart from Martino, the club captain will not feature against Atleti either. Javier Mascherano is favourite to accompany Puyol in the centre, which raises the question: will Marc Bartra start against Atletico?
Because yeah, there’s a game tomorrow, but the real action will be on Saturday.
Sergio Busquets may return at pivote after serving a one-game suspension against Elche on Sunday, which would free up Alex Song to take up a more advanced midfield role alongside Sergi Roberto. This could be crucial for Saturday’s match – Martino needs Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and Cesc Fàbregas to stay fresh, provided that he plans on starting all three together.
This of course depends on Messi’s progress. Cesc Fàbregas is unlikely to start if Messi’s back in the line-up (although I personally would opt for the same system that we successfully adopted in the Clasico, albeit with Pedro ahead of Alexis Sánchez), but the Argentine seems unlikely to be rushed back after such a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Give him half an hour tomorrow and perhaps the first-half on Saturday to ease back into the side.
And if your memory is good enough to remember the details of that Clasico, it was clear that Messi’s positioning on the right was as much down to his fitness or lack thereof as it was to some conscious tactical switch from Martino. It’d be unfortunate for Pedro and Alexis Sánchez to miss out on a starting berth against Atleti, but it seems possible from my perspective.
Anyway, back to Getafe; Cesc Fàbregas could start tomorrow, which perhaps shrouds his involvement against Atleti, at least from the start, in some doubt. The Catalan would of course occupy the false nine role, but I expect to see Neymar in the centre, with Alexis Sánchez and Cristian Tello in support.
My picks for substitutions? Neymar or Sánchez will be replaced by Messi in the 60th-70th minute. Busquets will also come off for Andrés Iniesta between the 70th and 75th minute, while whoever remains out of Sánchez and Neymar will probably be the last to come off, with less than a quarter of an hour to go.
That’s if things go to plan anyway.
Comfortably swept aside on their travels to Andalusia on Sunday, Getafe capitulated against Sevilla to lose 3-0 and will surely be fearing the worst ahead of their trip to the Camp Nou. Head coach Luis Garcia recognised that morale is low in his pre-match press conference today, but followed it up by saying that the only way to regain confidence is through hard work. And he’s right, with a little effort, why can’t they replicate their infamous 2007 success?
Getafe CF 2-5 FC Barcelona – 22nd December 2013 – La Liga
Pedro’s memorable nine-minute hat-trick turned this game on its head and sent the Blaugrana on their way to what was a comfortable win.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Pinto; Montoya, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano; Busquets, Roberto, Song; Sánchez, Neymar, Tello
Getafe (4-2-3-1): Moya; Alvaro, Rafa, Alexis, Escudero; Borja, Mosquera; Leon, Sarabia, Gavilan; Ciprian
This won’t even be close. Barça to wrap up a second successive 4-0 win.
- FC Barcelona News: 7 January 2014; Lionel Messi Returns to Match Squad, Dani Alves, Xavi and Marc Bartra Rested
- FC Barcelona News: 6 January 2014; Alexis Sanchez Leads Barça Back Into First Place, Gerard Pique Reaches Milestone
- La Liga: FC Barcelona 4-0 Elche CF: Highlights
- From The Mind of Xoel: Barça wins 4-0. The Friendly Competition Between Pedro and Alexis.
- La Liga: FC Barcelona 4-0 Elche CF: Match Review