Hay Liga! Well, maybe not, but FC Barcelona enter tomorrow’s La Liga clash with Getafe CF at the Camp Nou knowing that they need to avoid defeat if they wish to remain in the title race for one more week. Anything less, and an Atletico Madrid victory on Sunday afternoon would officially end the Blaugrana’s slim hopes of retaining the La Liga crown. However, it probably won’t come to that – not yet anyway. After all, it’s Getafe!
The Madrid-based outfit may have eked past Malaga last weekend, but it was only their second victory of the calendar year – a helpful reminder for all those who have forgotten, we’re in May. That’s over four months of football and only two victories to show for it. And to think there was an uproar when Barcelona lost three matches in quick succession last month.
Admittedly, Barcelona were far from their best last weekend against Villarreal and their recent form has been far from inspiring. But irrespective, one would expect Barça to breeze past Getafe at a canter tomorrow afternoon. Can the Blaugrana live up to expectations with a comfortable home victory, or will Getafe engineer one of the shocks of the season and steal a share of the spoils on their trip to the Camp Nou?
Isaac Cuenca finally received the medical green light to return to action this week, but misses out on a place in the squad for tomorrow’s match. Instead, he will have to continue watching on from the sidelines, alongside club captain, Carles Puyol, Gerard Piqué, Neymar, Victor Valdés, Jonathan dos Santos and Jordi Alba. That means an unchanged squad for head coach, Gerardo Martino – will it be an unchanged starting line-up as well?
Certainly there will be no change between the sticks. Jose Manuel Pinto will start in goal in what may be one of his final matches in a Blaugrana jersey, and he is likely to be supported by the same defense that started against Villarreal. Dani Alves will likely start at right-back, unless Martino surprises us by starting Martin Montoya, while Marc Bartra, Javier Mascherano and Adriano Correia are the only natural options in their respective positions. Again, Montoya could feature on the left-flank of defense, but it seems incredibly unlikely, even at this stage of the season.
And it also seems likely that Martino will opt for the same midfield tomorrow. Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta; even after nearly six seasons, the trio continue to make up Barça’s best midfield. However, there is a suggestion that Cesc Fàbregas may be the better option for tomorrow’s match. Indeed, he changed the game with his substitute appearance against Villarreal; maybe Fàbregas is deserving of a start. Remember, he has history against Getafe.
Speaking of history against Getafe, what about Lionel Messi? Who can forget that goal? It was the beginning of something truly magical; the arrival of one of the all time greats. The close control, the incredible balance, the composure under pressure and in front of goal; that single run displayed all of Messi’s greatest qualities, providing us with a glimpse into his staggeringly bright future at the club.
Entering the final three matches of the season, Lionel Messi is three goals removed from Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the Pichichi. The Portuguese forward is in sensational form, and has a game in hand over the Argentine, but even so, who would count Messi out of this race? Tomorrow represents an opportunity for him to keep his chances alive, as well as Barcelona’s. I would love to see Cristian Tello start tomorrow, but let’s face it: Pedro and Alexis Sánchez will probably keep their places instead.
Both the players and the coach have acknowledged how difficult it will be tomorrow. Travelling to the Camp Nou is tough, but knowing that a poor result could adversely affect your chances of survival? That just adds a whole new level of pressure. This year’s results seem to suggest that Getafe don’t deal too well with pressure, but with their future arguably on the line, maybe that’s the incentive they need to reach that next level against the reigning champions?
Getafe CF 0-2 FC Barcelona – 16th January 2014 – Copa del Rey
A brace from Lionel Messi secured a comfortable aggregate victory for the Blaugrana, who progressed to the semi-finals without conceding a goal against their rivals.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Pinto; Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Adriano; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Alexis
Getafe (4-3-2-1): Codina; Valera, Rafa, Alexis, Lago; Mosquera, Borja, Lacen; Sarabia, Gavilan; Colunga
Getafe are missing a few key names; this shouldn’t even be close. I’m going for a healthy 4-0 Blaugrana win.
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