September 11, 2010, was a happy day for Barcelona haters all over the world. On a somewhat cold winter afternoon in Catalunya, Hercules shocked the football world by beating Barcelona 2-0... at Camp Nou of all places. Nelson Valdés became the hero of Barcelona haters worldwide by scoring both goals. On that day, many predicted the end of the Barceona dinasty. "Barcelona are not the same team anymore", some thought. How wrong they were...Or maybe they were not so wrong; Barcelona are not the same team as last year, they're much better!
Ever since that loss, Barcelona have won 17 league matches (while only drawing one, 1-1 at home to Mallorca) and are now four points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the table, while breaking several point and goal records in the process. If anything, the defeat to Hercules had a positive effect on the team's performance!
5 months and 17 days after that shocking defeat, Barcelona want to show the world that it was merely a bad day and nothing else. Having been the only team to beat Barcelona so far, Hercules will be extra-motivated for this match and their manager believes that they can win yet again. Pep Guardiola is aware that Hercules are a very good team and that this will be one of the most difficult away games of the season and he has said that a win at the Ricó Perez is " a step forward that would be a major boost".
If Hercules are motivated, Barcelona are too. Not only do they want to prove that September's match was only a fluke, but they also want to equal Real Madrid's 15 straight league victories, a record set back in 1960/1961. Given Pep Guardiola's Dream Team's hunger for records, there's no doubt that they'll be at the top of their game. Speaking of Real Madrid, they have been having an amazing season and are only four points behind Barcelona in the standings. In order to maintain/increase that gap, Barcelona cannot afford to drop points.
With that in mind, Barcelona will have to put another top performance tomorrow in order to collect the three points, as Hercules will do them no favors. Winning at the Ricó Perez promises to be a truly herculean task for Barcelona, but these players have shown time and again that they're up for it.
Daniel Alves's return is definitely a most welcome boost to the team. Puyol is currently the only sidelined player, but he will be back in time for the Champions League knockout rounds. As important as Puyol is, his back-ups are proven time and again to be extremely reliable and they'll take care of everything until their captain returns.
You can follow the match and share your views live here on Barca Blaugranes in our live game thread. Please don't miss!