Despite it being the game after another pesky international break, there is no serious FIFA virus incident to report and Pep for the first time in a while has almost an entire first team to choose from. Saying that though, there is no doubt these players are going to be tired and we may be in store for a bit of a slower game, where we struggle a bit, as has happened in many of the post-international break games (let’s hope not though). Most the squad had to travel to and from Costa Rica to play horrendously poor (1st half at least) on a very bad pitch. And lest not forget Mascherano, Alves, and Messi travelling from South America. Messi himself has admitted the fatigue of all the traveling and football, but never the less, made it clear he wants to play. Journalist hounded Pep this afternoon about Messi’s condition and if he was going to be rested to which Pep sarcastically asked them “Do you want Messi not to play?”.
20 players trained today, 19 first team players along with Cuenca. They team list for tomorrow has not been announced but obviously it will be 18 of these. Adriano who is still recovering will not play tomorrow. Our main area of concern is upfront. Messi is admittedly exhausted, Pedro trained fully for the first time today, and apparently Alexis forced himself through 90 minutes against Paraguay and isn’t in good condition, even admitting his form is not where it needs to be. That leaves pretty much only Villa, who despite scoring (with a header) in Costa Rica and trying his damndest versus England, still appears to have lost that scoring touch. It is however a perfect opportunity from him to get back on track. Otherwise, it was good to see Puyol come on and play well versus England and then get a full 90 in the second game. The first 11 tomorrow is not an easy one to predict with all the specific issues stemming from the international break, but I think Thiago will definitely play due to his less tiresome traveling schedule and two good performances with the U-21 and I have a feeling Cuenca could find himself in the starting 11.
On the other side, we have Zaragoza. Having taken over last season quite early on, Javier Aguerrie, a Liga veteran, isn’t finding 2011/12 very easy. Languishing just one point above relegation in 16th place, with only 10 points from a possible 33, the Mexican’s team is leaking goals. With 22 conceded, they have the 2nd defensive record in the league (1st is Osasuna with 24). As is normal with the “smaller” teams, they don’t travel too well with 0 wins, 2 draws, and 3 losses in those 5 away games.
There are some reasonably known Liga names in the team like Leo Franco, Lafita, Ponzio, and former Espanyol man, and even Spanish international, Luis Garcia. However, the most interesting of the names has to be Portuguese forward Helder Postiga. Now at the ripe old age of 29 years old, his career has been a strange one. After an amazing 2002-3 season with Porto, he became one of Europe’s hottest youngsters and earned a big money move (well in those times 12 million Euro was for a 20 year old) to Tottenham. I watched a lot of him and he was abysmal at White Heart Lane, scoring a fantastic 1 goal in 19. Anyway, he went back to Portugal the next year and bounced around some other small clubs on loan but of recent I’ve been reading he again is looking good. Fact is he started for Portugal as the loan striker in the key match versus Bosnia. So I find it rather strange that the starting striker for Portugal was sold to Zaragaoza this summer for just 1 million pounds! And truth be told, he looked quite competent, getting a brace, versus Bosnia Tuesday night.
It’s great to have the team back and with Madrid traveling to Valencia right after our game, we could possibly make up some ground on our 3-point deficient tomorrow.
Enjoy the game readers.