Quite a few of us, no doubt, had a good old laugh three weeks ago when Real Madrid were beaten 2-1 by Getafe. Tomorrow evening (Saturday, kick off 8 pm) it is Barça’s turn to enter the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, and despite losing 1-0 on our most recent visit last November we will be looking for victory to maintain our 100% start to La Liga 2012/13 and our five point advantage over Madrid.
The bad news is we will travel without Andres Iniesta (out for two weeks) and Alexis Sanchez, after both players picked up injuries on international duty this week, and Jordi Alba who’s not recovered from a flu in time. However, captain Carles Puyol is back, as is Thiago Alcantara who finally seems to be over his shin problems. Martin Montoya and B-team star Gerard Deulofeu have also been named in a 19-man squad for the game that will travel tomorrow. With a larger first team squad this season it might seem more difficult for the B-team players to break through, but it is good to see that Tito Vilanova seems to have confidence to continue the policy of giving youngsters a chance.
Despite spending very little, Getafe have made quite a few changes from last season. Emblematic players like Cata Diaz and Javier Casquero have moved on but signings such as Alvaro Vazquez (Espanyol), Angel Lafita (Zaragoza) and ex-blaugrana Xavi Torres (Levante) have come in to strengthen the squad. The victory over Madrid showed their potential though in their other two league games they have failed to win, losing 2-1 at Sevilla and drawing 1-1 at Deportivo.
For Barça, the main worry is the loss of Iniesta. It is surely no coincidence that our only two away league defeats (at Getafe and at Osasuna) were both without Don Andrés. The pressure will again be on Cesc Fabregas to demonstrate that he can perform in our 4-3-3 system. My feeling is that he just needs a little luck in front of goal and his confidence will come back. However, there is also a persistant nagging doubt of whether he will ever make it to the level of Xavi and Iniesta, and if he doesn’t he will always suffer unfavourable comparisons to the deadly midfield duo.
The spotlight is also likely to be on David Villa who seems likely to replace Alexis. I must say I love the idea of getting the Pedro-Messi-Villa front line back to its 2010/2011 level, and with Pedro and Messi both starting the season well we just need Villa to rediscover his fitness and form to have opposition defences trembling.
On a side note the date and time of the next clásico has been announced. Barça will play Real Madrid at Camp Nou on Sunday 7 October with the unusual kick off time of 7.50 pm. I must admit there seems to be an improvement in giving kick off times this season. For many years the LFP wouldn’t announce kick off times until about eight days before the event which made organizing a life around football somewhat more complicated. This season we seem to be getting around three weeks’ notice, which while not being perfect is certainly an improvement. We now have confirmed the kick off times for our next six matches.
- Getafe (A) Sat 15 Sept. Kick off 8 pm.
- Spartak Moscow (H) Wed 19 Sept. Kick off 8.45 pm.
- Granada (H) Sat 22 Sept. Kick off 10 pm.
- Sevilla (A) Sat 29 Sept. Kick off 10 pm.
- Benfica (A) Tues 2 Oct. Kick off 8.45 pm.
- Real Madrid (H) Sun 7 Oct. Kick off 7.50 pm.
A victory tomorrow would be a tremendous boost to begin this series of games, however, I’m afraid I don’t feel too confident. I think we will again notice the absence of Iniesta and I predict we’ll only get a draw.
Barça’s 19-man squad: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Montoya, Bartrá, Piqué, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano, Busquets, Song, Xavi, Thiago, Fabregas, Pedro, Messi, Villa, Tello, Deulofeu.
Possible starting XI: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Adriano; Xavi, Busquets, Fabregas; Pedro, Messi, Villa.
My prediction: Getafe 1 Barça 1