This Saturday marks the start of Barcelona’s pre-season matches, as the Blaugrana travel to Croatia for a match with Hajduk Split.
The friendly was announced by Hajduk as part of their centenary celebrations, with the club being founded in 1911, and this match will involve two teams who have never been relegated from their respective top divisions.
I will not claim to be a follower of Croatian football, nor will I claim to know an awful lot about Hajduk’s current side, but the Croatian’s can boast a fine history, especially with regards to developing talent for the future. Here is my knowledge of the Croatian side:
- Their academy is considered the best in Croatia, and notable graduates include former Juventus players Igor Tudor and Alen Boksic, former real Madrid defender Robert Jarni, current Croatia manager Slaven Billic, Tottenham midfielder Niko Kranjcar, Shakhtar full-back Darijo Srna, and current prospect, Ante Vukisic.
- Managed by former Bulgaria legend, Krasimir Balakov, Hajduk finished last season in second place, behind eternal rivals, Dinamo Zagreb, but the league season has already started in Croatia, and Hajduk sit atop the table, being the only team to have played, and won.
Barcelona will be lacking in match practice, but one can assume that the gulf in quality could negate this, making for an interesting match.
Here’s the point where I would usually guess the line-up, but in this case, I literally have no clue. Will Barcelona play the big guns? Or will it be the youth/fringe players who get a chance to showcase their ability?
With the Audi Cup on Tuesday, and Wednesday, I am going to guess that Barcelona start out strong, with as close to a first team line-up as possible, and wholesale changes to take place at half-time, with the fringe players, and youth teamers given a chance to impress.
Players who will not feature, are those out on holiday, after their excursions at the Copa America, (Messi, Alves, Adriano, Mascherano and Milito), Puyol, who has yet to return to full training, Bojan, who is widely expected to complete his move to Roma today, and Xavi, who has been suffering from a niggling pain in his Achilles.
My prediction is that Hajduk start out cautious against the European Champions, and keeping patient until late on in the game, where their fitness could shine through, and lead to goals.
Score Prediction: Barca to edge it 2-1, with goals from Pedro and Villa.
Note: If I can find a stream, there will also be a live match thread, so make sure you keep a look out!
Follow me on Twitter @aduckling_10