Barça play Betis tomorrow night (10pm kick off) at the Benito Villamarin in Pep Guardiola’s last league match as first team coach. Guardiola has only fifteen first team players available, Pinto being the latest casualty with a sprained ankle though he should be fine for the Copa del Rey final in two weeks. Youngsters Oier, Tello, Bartra and Montoya travel to make a squad of 19 for the game.
Neither team has much to play for which is why the game has been brought forward to Saturday night. These games can sometimes lack intensity but on the positive side both teams like to attack so with nothing to lose we will probably see an open game with plenty of chances.
Leo Messi will of course be hoping to add to his already unbelievable 72 goals this season. In the Liga Messi has a stunning 50 compared to Cristiano Ronaldo’s 45 so the pichichi is more or less wrapped up. However, considering the remarkable season from both players perhaps five goals from Ronaldo against Mallorca on Sunday is not completely impossible so a couple more from Messi tomorrow will do no harm.
With Pinto injured Valdés will return to the team which has the negative side of putting the zamora goalkeeper award in danger. Valdés has conceded 26 goals in his 34 matches this season (0.76 per game), if he concedes three tomorrow then Iker Casillas (30 goals in 36 games, 0.83 per game) would take the prize if he keeps a clean sheet against Mallorca.
The individual awards are all well and good but, let’s be honest, they don’t quite get the pulse racing like a must win game. If the Betis game doesn’t grab you then what do you all think about the possible new signings? The names of Gareth Bale and Jordi Alba keep appearing as possible left backs for next season and I have to confess I like Bale a lot though he would be much more expensive. The central defenders mentioned such as Thiago Silva and David Luiz would also cost a lot and we may have a difficult task this summer finding the right player to reinforce this area. The other main necessity would seem to be a striker. This week of course everybody is talking about Radamel Falcao but I think it is extremely unlikely that Barça would bid for him. His team mate Adrian Lopez has also been mentioned and while he seems more suited to Barça’s style it is difficult to see him as more than just a squad player. The other big names being talked about are Gonzalo Higuain, Robin Van Persie and Fernando Llorente. Of these three I would most like to see Higuain who would surely score plenty; Van Persie I’m not so sure about, on his day he is great but he has had a lot of injuries and can be a bit temperamental; Llorente would be a good signing but again I would see him more as a squad player and someone who could give us a change of plan in difficult games.
Let us know what you think.
Barça 19 for Betis: Valdés, Oier, Alves, Montoya, Bartra, Piqué, Mascherano, Adriano, Busquets, Keita, Xavi, Thiago, Iniesta, Fabregas, Pedro, Messi, Afellay, Cuenca, Tello.
Possible starting XI: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Adriano; Thiago, Busquets, Keita; Pedro, Messi, Afellay.
My prediction: Betis 2 Barça 4