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The Weekly Review: Week 48: El Clasico on the horizon for FC Barcelona

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That's the face of a man with a plan
That's the face of a man with a plan

If there was any La Liga manager that resembled A Team character Hannibal Smith, I would have to say it was Marcelo Bielsa. But given the past day or so, I might now vouch for Pep Guardiola. Of course, I am referring to the character famous catchphrase, which Pep must have been uttering after his team’s victory over Levante. It is just so apt, so right:

"I love it when a plan comes together."

All the rocky performances, each dropped point and every goal conceded. The critics were returning and they were louder than ever. "Mourinho has got the better of Guardiola" screamed the Madridista press and – for a moment at least – they appeared to be right. Snap judgements got the better of me; I assumed that the league was a near impossible task. Where was my faith? At least Gabe kept his, and even supplied reasons for it:

Real Madrid Just Can't Hang: 4 Reasons FC Barcelona will win La Liga 2012

Having the personnel to drastically change formations on the fly is a huge advantage, especially as the league wears on. Teams will have more difficulty preparing for Barcelona, and we’re less likely to see stagnant performances. Most of all, the 3-4-3 allows for the maximum application of offensive firepower, and when healthy there has likely never been a more potent attacking squad than FC Barcelona 2011/2012.

Pep Guardiola has recovered such situations before albeit as a player, and his managerial career has been virtually blemish free. The team have not truly disappointed me since the Rijkaard era, and that was way before the rise and rise of Lionel Messi. I was undecided on the 3-4-3 citing defensive concerns as my reason, although I failed to consider just how effective it is when Barcelona truly control the game. Then it becomes a WMD, something that can cause irreversible damage in the blink of an eye.

I would not employ this strategy next Saturday, but if Guardiola does, I can trust his decision to be the right one. Although this will be discussed in a lot more detail later in the week. Barcelona are hitting form at just the right time and if all goes to plan, they will beat Real Madrid yet again, before flying to Japan and winning the Club World Cup. Should that be the case, I will never doubt Pep again...honest!

However, there is one more match to be played before the Clasico, and that is the final Champions League group game with BATE Borisov. Unluckily for the Belarusians, they have to travel to the Camp Nou, but they will be happy to see that the squad list indicates full-scale changes.

Guardiola to rest 13 first team players against BATE | FC Barcelona

Pep Guardiola will rest 13 first team players for the upcoming Champions League match this Tuesday against BATE Borisov (20:45). The Barça manager will rest Valdés, Alves, Puyol, Abidal, Mascherano, Keita, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Messi, Alexis and Villa.

This match will not really hold any impact heading into El Clasico, unless one of the few first teamers pick up an injury, but it will give the chance for Pedro to get a much-needed goal. It also gives a hint to Pep’s mindset approaching the big game, and judging by this squad list, Isaac Cuenca is unlikely to start El Clasico. Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen, and I could be wrong entirely, but Gerard Pique aside, none of those men will start at the Bernabeu.

This week is sure to shape the rest of the season for the Blaugrana, and even with Real Madrid in the form of their lives, I am not even worried. Win or lose, this team has already cemented their place amongst the all-time greats, just a question of how long we can stay at the top with a world-class rival breathing down our necks.

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