Following a brief international break, FC Barcelona will be back in action on Sunday afternoon as they get ready to host twelfth-place Getafe at the Camp Nou. Luis Garcia’s side have mustered just one win in their last ten matches, but they might fancy their chances against the Blaugrana – who have won just two of their last six matches in all competitions, possibly influenced by the absence of their head coach, Tito Vilanova. Will Lionel Messi be able to celebrate his contract extension by firing Barcelona to victory, or will the dreaded "FIFA virus" strike again?
Barca head into Sunday’s match without influential midfielder Xavi, who is battling a hamstring injury; although aside from that, Barcelona are at full strength for the visit of Getafe. However, with a UEFA Champions League round of sixteen clash with AC Milan just around the corner, the onus is on Jordi Roura to start rotating the squad; and many expect him to start tomorrow.
Victor Valdés will start in goal off the back of a MoTM performance against Valencia, where he managed to save the Blaugrana from certain defeat with a number of top-class saves. Sure, Valdés hasn’t been at his best this season and as a result, there are many who believe Barcelona are likely to benefit when he decides to move on (be it this summer or in 2014); but even so, there is no question about it – when Valdés is at his best, there are few better.
In defense, Dani Alves is favourite to start at right-back, although the Brazilian may welcome a rest following a midweek friendly with England. Alves was in good form on Wednesday night and managed to keep Danny Welbeck quiet on the left, but he did play the full 90 minutes – unlike Adriano who was subbed off with 20 minutes left to play at Wembley. Whether Adriano would start on the right or left is unknown – heck, he might not start at all – we can’t rule Martin Montoya out after all. Personally, I would start with Montoya on the right and Adriano on the left – although I have a hunch that Tito/Roura will opt for Alves and Adriano instead.
Moving onto the centre of defense, is it possible that we will see Marc Bartra granted his first La Liga start of the season? Given that centenary man Carles Puyol and his partner-in-crime Gerard Piqué have travelled half-way across the world – and back – this week, it’s certainly possible, but I wouldn’t put any money on it. Instead, I expect to see Javier Mascherano start in the heart of defense with Gerard Piqué in support – although here’s a radical thought: maybe we should give Alex Song another chance at centre-half; after all, isn’t that the main reason that the club signed him from Arsenal?
That being said, Alex Song’s services may be required in midfield as Sergio Busquets played the full 90 minutes against Uruguay on Wednesday. Slowly but surely, Song is starting to improve and grow into his role at the Camp Nou but even his most ardent supporters would struggle to advocate the exorbitant fee Barça paid for his signature just six months ago. Ahead of Song/Busquets, Thiago Alcântara is expected to start and the talented Spaniard hinted at his frustration sitting on the bench in a recent interview.
When asked about what it’s like to play with the world’s best players, Thiago answered truthfully, noting that while it’s an honour to ply your trade with players like Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, it is also unfortunate as he has to compete with those same players for a place in the first team. Therefore, it’s up to Thiago to make the most of every opportunity he gets – starting on Sunday against Getafe. Thiago is likely to be joined in midfield by Cesc Fàbregas, who scored the opening goal in Spain’s 3-1 win over Uruguay.
In attack, Lionel Messi is virtually certain to start, and wouldn’t it be nice if he could grab a goal, or three, to celebrate his newly-signed contract extension? Of course it would, but wouldn’t it be even better if Alexis Sánchez got those goals instead? The Chilean missed another good chance to end his scoring drought in Chile’s friendly with Egypt and he admitted after the game that he’s feeling nervous in front of goal. With each passing game, those nerves are going to multiply but – answers on a postcard to the Camp Nou if you have a suggestion – there appears to be no quick fix. While that may be the case, there’s certainly nothing to be gained from a few cameo appearances – surely the best option is for Sánchez to start in matches like this, where the pressure is low and, no offense to any Getafe fans reading, where Alexis doesn’t have to worry about scoring. Anyway, enough about Alexis, there’s one more place up for grabs, and it’s down to David Villa and Cristian Tello to fight it out. Tello could equally start on the right ahead of Sánchez – and it’s arguably his best chance of a starting role because El Guaje expected to start on Sunday.
Usually this is the part of the preview where I would address our opponents, but instead I shall direct you to Luis’ superb in-depth scouting report, where he not only addresses the team news ahead of Sunday's clash, but also takes a look at Getafe's recent form and the approach Luis Garcia is likely to take at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona showed no signs of the fatigue following a short international break, coasting to victory over Getafe in Madrid. Adriano Correia put the Blaugrana ahead in the 32nd minute, before late goals from Lionel Messi (2) and David Villa secured the three points.
FC Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Adriano; Song, Thiago, Cesc; Sánchez, Messi, Villa
I fully expect Barcelona to coast to victory on Sunday; I’m going for another 4-1 win.