Week 27 and we host 15th place Zaragazoa at the Camp Nou. Now, I am a strong believer that no match nor opponent should ever be underestimated, but saying that, a home game to Zaragoza before a huge Champions League match is the kind of fixture one can live with. Saying that though, we have to get 3 points tonight. In this tight La Liga race, this isn’t the type of match we should drop points. The boys just need to go out there, start off ruthlessly, slot a few goals past them and then play it out.
There are however some interesting dynamics coming into this game, none more so than the absence of our “mister”. If you refer to the Weekly Wrap Up posted earlier, you can get a more in detail story of the back problems that will see him miss tomorrow’s game. That means his trusted number 2 Tito Vilanova will take charge of what I believe is his second game. This brings an interesting dynamic into it. Considering the huge tie next week Tuesday, one would assume if Pep were there as normal he would think about resting a few. Now, resting satrs isn’t one of Pep’s normal managerial beliefs, but I would assume at least 2 or 3, like Xavi, Iniesta, or Busquets, would be sitting out. But, with Vilanova in charge, he may not want to do so and possibly get a result that reflects on him poorly. Honestly though, I’m sure he and Pep will speak in length before the game and Vilanova will essentially just oversee what Pep wants.
Puyol began training normally with the first team yesterday afternoon, which bodes well for his inclusion next Tuesday. I do not think he will play tomorrow, though maybe they put him on 2nd half for a bit of a competitive run out. No talk of Victor Valdes at all this week, so I fear he may not make it against Arsenal. That means Pinto will be in goal again and despite some riskyish distribution has looked solid enough. Pique will definitely start as he is suspended next week. Then I expect Dani and Abidal to be in as per normal, but who will occupy the left is up for grabs at this rate. I think midfield is where we will see the most changes if anything. Upfront I think it will be the normal 3, especially from the start. I hope Villa has a solid game tomorrow night, he needs it more than most. Messi will play all 90 minutes because that’s just what he does.
Zaragoza are now under the stewardship of former Atletico Madrid and Mexico boss Javier Aguirre. And he has a whole heap of absentee issues tomorrow. Number one keeper Leo Franco is injured, as well as key midfielder Lafita. The others injured are Braulio and Bouthahar. Add to that, 3 starts in Gabi, Contini, and Ponzio are suspended. All those starts being out isn’t a good sign for a team whose away record reads 1W, 6D, and 5L with only 7 goals scored in those 12 matches. Of those that are starting, the names that are most familiar are former Liverpool and Atletico Madrid forward Sinama-Pongolle and former blaugrana and Brazilian international Edmilson. Those with deeper Liga knowledge will know Uruguayan Carlos Diogo, a real tough tackling, no nonsense kinda defender who had a small stint at Real Madrid in 2004/5. There is also Czech midfielder turned defender at Zaragoza Jiri Jarosi. But the one player we should keep an eye on is young playmaker Ander Herrera.
So that’s the preview. We won a huge match Wednesday, we have a huge match next Tuesday, but tomorrow we should only be thinking of the 90 minutes against Zaragoza. Failure to do so could be detrimental.