Game 20 of the La Liga season, and we host Racing Santander at the Camp Nou tomorrow night at 20:00 Spanish time. I’m not going to say Racing have done very poorly this season, but they have not been especially great either. If I had to choice, I’d lean on the poor side. They currently sit in 14th place with 20 points after 5 wins, 5 draws, and 9 defeats. They have an awful away record, so that bodes well for us. On their travels, they have only picked up 5 of their total points, managing just the 1 win, 2 draws, and 7 defeats. This team’s major issue is glaringly obvious, and that is putting the ball in the net. They have scored just 15 goals in the 19 games thus far, which is the worst in the league, and honor they share with the rather boring and defensive Deportivo. Tim Stannard from Football365, who I can’t say I always see eye to eye with, has put much of this teams woes on Swedish striker Marcus Rosenberg (on loan from Werder Bremen) who has apparently been missing chances for fun, but is nevertheless the top goal-scorer with 5.
They also come with a rather depleted squad. Pedro Munitis, their captain and frankly the teams heartbeat, will not play after a red card last weekend. Their tough tackling, rather dirty right back Pinillos is injured, and so are Coltorti, Greek midfielder Tziolis, Oscar Serrano (once a very decent player at Espanyol), and Senegalese midfielder Diop. Of the players that will play, some will know a Liga warhorse in Colsa and also Henrique, who Barca still own. Lacen is probably the best player of the squad tonight, along with Turk Kennedy.
Honestly, I do not see this one being a problem. The somewhat shock defeat (especially since we had a pretty strong squad out) at Betis will serve as a lesson to us. Guardiola himself said the team will learn and grow from the defeat, which I fully agree with. When Spain lost to Switzerland in the World Cup (I game I watched in frustration personally), people were telling me how shocking the result was and how Spain aren’t as good as I said. But I calmly and honestly said this defeat will help us win the World Cup. When you are such a good team and easily win most of your games, it’s human nature to fall into false comfort and against “lesser” opponents. The defeat to Betis, which aside from ending a great unbeaten run too early, meant nothing to our progress in the Copa but it will serve as a wakeup call. Even if we are the best in the world, we have to treat every game with respect and focus. Furthermore, often when we lose an unexpected game, we like to come back in the next game to prove a point to ourselves and others. If that is the case, Racing could be in for a torrid time.
Player wise, we do not have much injury issues. Jeffren has injured himself and will be unavailable for an estimated 5 weeks, but that hardly impacts Pep’s team selection. Pep may not play the strongest 11 but it should be pretty much the usual. The team will be slightly rotated from now till the big Champions League tie, so Mascherano, Afellay, or Keita coming in here and there should not be a surprise. I think the boys will put on a good showing tonight and win without too many scares.
There has been some rather unsavoury news regarding Dani Alves today however. The papers are reporting that he has rejected our latest contract offer, that a few weeks back I remember the board said that would be the final one. We have been in negotiations regarding this since October/November 2010. If El Mundo has it right, he rejected a wage package similar to the likes of Pique, Puyol, and Valdes. If that is the case, rejecting that is greedy and ridiculous on his part and he deserves no more. How he thinks he deserves more than those 3 is beyond me. I hope it’s just agent hardball nonsense and he will eventually tell him to accept. Rumors about him going to Abu $tiy (what I affectionately call Manchester City) have been there for all to read for months and months, and if Dani really is about the money, he could find himself there eventually. If I am not mistaken, I remember these contract negotiations saying it was just a one year renewal to 2015 with an option to extend to 2016. So he is still under contract a while, but if he refuses to renew, the club may think about cashing in at some point. But for now, I do not think we need worry just yet and start thinking about possible replacements.
There has also a story from Sport today saying that Jonathan Dos Santos has been given approval from the board to look for options elsewhere if he chooses to. His contract expires in June and if he is unwilling to commit, the club is looking to cash in at least a few million. He looked a great talent to me, but recently Thiago come more to the forefront, even reported a few days back he will officially be promoted to the first squad starting next season. Being a talented midfielder at Barcelona has to be an extremely difficult spot. Jonathan knows he will not be starting in that team for at least 3 or 4 years, if ever. Xavi could go another 2 or 3, Iniesta many more, then probably Cesc, Afellay, and Thiago. I do not feel any resentment about him wanting to take his career forward and if he does go, I wish him the best of luck and hope he does better than his brother has thus far.
Just a small note to finish, the reaction when Nic wanted to close the blog was strong to say the least. Many asked him not to and as a result, barcacentral was born. I know during the hard times we used this platform extensively to vent and express our views, but I urge reader to get a bit more involved with the comments and we get some discussion going. Debate is the life force of a blog.
Enjoy the game guys. Visca Barca.