La Liga is back! After intense negotiations, the LFP and player’s union AFE have reached an agreement, and Jornada Two would be played as originally scheduled. Last night’s games served as an appetizer of what’s to come. Valenica prevailed 4-3 against Racing Santander, in what was easily the game of the day, while Real Betis were the winners against fellow La Liga new-boys, Granada.
Tonight sees the return of Real Madrid, but FC Barcelona and Villarreal are given top billing on Monday night. It pits the reigning champions against the yellow submarine who finished 4th in the last campaign, undoubtedly the game of the weekend. However, this particular fixture couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Blaugrana. Though Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol were already ruled out for this match, FC Barcelona’s injured list has grown longer. Full-back Adriano picked up a muscular injury in the 2-0 triumph over FC Porto, and news emanating out of the Camp Nou today is that Dani Alves is suspended, having accumulated five yellow cards in the previous season.
This should have been declared earlier, and I question whether the club knew, as Martin Montoya played for the B team just yesterday. Whether this rules him out is debatable, but mismanagement on the part of FC Barcelona, or plain lack of communication.
That being said, the rest of the team is at 100%, so one can anticipate a central defensive pairing of midfielders, with Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets most likely to fill in. This would mean Eric Abidal could take his favoured position at left-back, and with a bit of luck, Martin Montoya can deputise at right-back.
Despite primarily playing for the Barca B side in the Segunda, Montoya is highly regarded. The regular right-back for the Spainsh Under 21 side has been called up to the senior squad for the matches with Chile and Liechtenstein. His contract renewal should be sorted imminently, and what better way to celebrate than by filling in versus Villarreal?
This would mean that Guardiola would be without an anchor-man, but given his knack for experiments, this may suit him fine. Seydou Keita is the likely candidate to stand in, in that scenario, why not attempt to negate the defensive frailties by stacking the midfield? Imagine a midfield trio of Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.
Ball retention would be through the roof; and Villarreal cannot attack without the ball. Attack is the best form of defence after all. The creation of chances in abundance would be almost guaranteed, and with Lionel Messi dropping deep to play those cutting through balls between the full-back and centre-half, goals could be easy to come by.
On the Villarreal side of things, the Yellow Submarine will be full of confidence. Despite losing the first leg to Odense, they turned in a fine performance to win the tie 3-0, and qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage. As far as I know, there are no significant injury worries for Villarreal, and will be at full strength for their visit to the Camp Nou.
However, their optimism over the task ahead could be short-lived. Travelling to Denmark to face Odense, the Yellow Submarine were flat-out awful. Making mistakes, failing to retain possession; things that cannot be done against Barcelona.
In pre-season, a makeshift side lost away to Wigan, and while Everton are a fine opposition, beating them by a solitary goal does not hint at amazing away form. Many teams have tried to beat FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou, but few prevail, only on six occasion have the Blaugrana been bettered under the reign of Pep Guardiola. It is a fortress, so in my opinion, the worst that could happen on Monday night is a draw.
Last year’s match was evenly contested, and despite the 3-1 score line, the only thing separating the sides was the sheer brilliance of Lionel Messi. Given his start to the season, I feel Monday will be the same, with both teams cancelling each other out, but ultimately, Messi proves to be the difference.
FC Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Montoya, Busquets, Mascherano, Abidal; Keita, Xavi, Iniesta; Pedro, Villa, Messi.
Villarreal CF (4-2-2-2): Lopez; Mario, Musacchio, Zapata, Oriol; Marchena, Bruno, Cani, Borja Valero; Rossi, Nilmar
Fc Barcelona vs Villarreal 3-1 Full Highlights & All Goals 11/13/2010 La Liga BBVA 2010/2011 (via purofutbolsenores2)
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