Following a week of international friendlies Barça return to action with a league game against Getafe at Camp Nou which will kick off at the unusual time of 12 o’clock midday. The kick off time means a new routine for the players who will stay in a hotel tonight instead of with their families. There will be an 8.00 am wake-up call followed by breakfast at 8.30 before the team makes the short trip to Camp Nou at around 10.30.
International breaks are inevitable but irritating all the same. However, I decided to watch Spain play Uruguay because of the seven La Masia products starting for La Roja and also for Carles Puyol’s 100th international appearance. Puyol’s 45 minutes were not his best but there were good performances from Fabregas and Valdés while Pedro continues to find the net more easily in internationals.
Later, I watched the England-Brazil game from which I can only say how disappointing Brazil were. Okay, it’s just a friendly but I was hoping to see a bit more from the Brazilians. I have no idea whether we will eventually sign Neymar or not but we seem to have a pre-agreement in place. From this showing it would be a definite no in my opinion as he looked pretty lightweight. The saddest thing was to see an off-the-pace Ronaldinho who must surely only have been picked due to some particular appearance money agreement.
I didn’t get to see the Messi-Ibrahimovic showdown but there was excellent news this week with Messi signing a new contract extension to 2018 when he’ll be 31. Messi has often said he would like to finish his career in Argentina but we will have to hope we can keep him a few more years after 2018. How good Messi will be at 34, 35 or 36 remains to be seen but I feel certain he will still be an exceptional player.
In other news this week we had the rather cheeky announcement from Sandro Rosell that there is one Real Madrid player who he likes very much. Now, of course, Rosell may simply have been talking about an admiration for a certain player but the idea that perhaps he has already made contact with someone with a possibility of a transfer has got the Spanish press into a fervour of speculation. All the main sports papers ran polls asking who the player might be, with Iker Casillas and Mesut Ozil receiving most votes. With Valdés on his way out the idea of ‘stealing’ Casillas is very attractive but I have my doubts about whether Casillas would ‘do the dirty’ on the club where he grew up.
For tomorrow’s game we are without Xavi, out for two weeks after injuring a thigh muscle in the 1-1 draw at Valencia last week. Xavi’s injury brought into question the decision not to make more rotations at Valencia. With players like Thiago and Villa available it might have been more sensible to leave a couple of the usual starters on the bench with Xavi being one of the main contenders to benefit from a rest.
However, given that next week we have no midweek game it seems likely we will play our strongest eleven tomorrow. The only doubts would appear to be whether to play Puyol or Mascherano in defence, and how to substitute Xavi. We could give David Villa, Alexis Sanchez or even Cristian Tello a chance in attack with Iniesta moving back into midfield or we could take the option of a straight swap with Thiago taking Xavi’s role. I know there are many fans clamouring for Villa to get more starts, however, I won’t be at all surprised to see him on the bench again. The Alba-Fabregas-Iniesta connection on the left has been very effective and it seems Vilanova and Roura are reluctant to break it.
Our opponents Getafe looked like a possible contender for a place in Europe next season after a good start to the season which saw them as high as sixth place after Jornada 14. However, they have since taken only seven points from their last eight games which has seen them drop down to twelfth in the table and they will need to pick up if they do not want to see themselves involved in the relegation battle. Their defence has been leaking too many goals this season which has seen coach Luis Garcia Plaza take action in the winter transfer window bringing in two defenders on loan, the Argentinian international Fede Fernandez from Napoli and Sergio Escudero from Schalke 04. Getafe’s task tomorrow won’t be helped by having six players out including injured right back Juan Valera and goalkeeper Moya who is suspended. However, they have Pedro Leon fit again as an option for the right wing while Medhi Lacen and the dangerous Abdelaziz Barrada have returned from the African Cup and could both start.
The midday kick-off is sure to be a bit strange for many of us, but for the players who are used to training in the morning there should be no problems. Last season we won the corresponding fixture 4-0 with a brace from Alexis. I predict another high-scoring victory tomorrow to take us another step closer to our 22nd Liga. If the kick-off time means an early start for you then don’t forget to set your alarm clock and go easy on the partying tonight!
Barça’s 20-man squad: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Montoya, Piqué, Bartrá, Mascherano, Puyol, Adriano, Alba, Song, Busquets, Thiago, Fabregas, Iniesta, Pedro, Alexis, Messi, Villa, Tello.
Barça: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Alba; Thiago, Busquets, Fabregas; Pedro, Messi, Iniesta.
Getafe: Codina; Miguel Torres, Fernandez, Alexis Delgado, Escudero; Lacen, Xavi Torres; Diego Castro, Barrada, Gavilan; Colunga.
Prediction: Barça 5 Getafe 0
Date: Sunday 10 February 2013. Kick off: 12 o’clock midday (local time)