After the events of the past week, Barcelona face their most important game of the season this weekend. The opponents? Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou.
Normally, this would just be a routine match for the Catalans, even though Bilbao are one of the best La Liga sides, as the away form of the opponents is slightly suspect.
However, a draw at El Molinon was followed by a loss in the Champions League to Arsenal at the Emirates. So, it’s safe to suspect that Barca will be glad to be home.
In my match review for the Arsenal game, I told of the errors that the Blaugrana made, and said how they cannot be repeated this weekend. Partly because Fernando Llorente will pounce on them, and partly because it could lead to Guardiola losing his rag completely.
So hopefully, Puyol will be adjudged as fit to play, otherwise I fear the mistakes could continue. Tactics wise, I expect Messi and Pedro to bounce back from their poor showing at the Emirates to put the sword to the Basques, with the normal midfield trio behind them. Maxwell, may be dropped and replaced with Adriano, but that will be down to Pep’s personal preference.
If we had a stronger squad, I think he would have been tempted for a complete overhaul.
Although, I would like to see Thiago given some game time.
What Guardiola cannot repeat is the absurd substitutions he did against Arsenal, I mean Keita for the best attacking player on the night Villa?! And what about Adriano on for Iniesta?!
Nevertheless, back at the comfort of the Camp Nou, all eyes will be on Messi, who has failed to score for two games now!?! (Dear God, someone call the doctor this man must be ill!) Though, mark my words, if its 0-0 at half-time, expect the crowd to turn, and things could get tricky.
Because Villa is ruled out, all the pressure is on the diminutive Argentinean, but that shouldn’t be a bad thing.
But that’s the worst case scenario and considering the results beforehand, I doubt Guardiola will settle for anything less than a master class.