Barça play host to Malaga tomorrow night (Wednesday, kick off 8pm) in Pep Guardiola’s penultimate game at Camp Nou. It will be his 150th league game in charge which makes him the fourth longest serving coach in Barça’s history after Johan Cruyff with 306 league games, Rinus Michels (204) and Frank Rijkaard (190). Guardiola’s record of 77% victories is by far the best of the lot (Cruyff 60%, Rijkaard 58%, Michels 52%) which along with the 13 trophies must surely confirm him as the greatest coach in the club’s history.
With this season’s league practically impossible now thoughts will be on preparing well for the Copa del Rey final with Athletic Club on May 25. Pinto will continue in goal which means Victor Valdés is guaranteed his fifth Zamora trophy as the Liga’s goalkeeper with fewest goals conceded. The other important objective is for Leo Messi to clinch the pichichi trophy as the league’s top scorer. His duel with Cristiano Ronaldo has both players on an incredible 43 goals with three league games remaining. Overall, however, in all competitions Messi has 65 goals this season to Cristiano’s 57. Messi needs just two more to equal the all time European record of 67 goals in a season by Bayern Munich’s Gerd Muller in 1972/73.
Barça will be without Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Piqué and Alexis Sanchez for the Malaga game, but there will be no massive changes to the team. It will be interesting to see if Dani Alves returns to the team after the recent rumours of there being a problem with him. Alves is a fundamental part of this team and I would hate to think there is any chance of him leaving.
Malaga come into the game with a very real dream of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time ever. Seven wins and three draws from the last twelve league games have seen Malaga move up to fourth place, level on 55 points with third placed Valencia who they beat 1-0 on Saturday, and three points above Levante who are fifth. Coach Manuel Pellegrini will have to make do without the injured Maresca and the suspended Isco. However, they have plenty of quality in their squad with Santi Cazorla and the young Ignacio Camacho
Possible starting XIs:
Barça: Pinto, Alves, Mascherano, Puyol, Adriano; Fabregas, Keita, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Afellay.
Malaga: Caballero; Sanchez, Weligton, Demichelis, Monreal; Camacho, Duda; Joaquin, Eliseu, Cazorla; Rondon.
My prediction: Barça 2 Malaga 1