Preview: Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona (game 26 liga 2012/13)

realmadrid 1-3 barcelonaFollowing Tuesday’s Copa del Rey elimination Barça have a quick chance for revenge over Real Madrid when the two sides meet for another clásico tomorrow afternoon at the Santiago Bernabéu in the 26th week of La Liga season. The game has been brought forward to the unusual kick off time of 4 pm to allow Madrid more time to prepare their crucial Champions League return match with Manchester United on Tuesday. One can’t help wondering why the LFP has never made such favours to Barça before a Champions League match.

A lot has been said since Tuesday about Barça’s problems and the necessary changes we need to make before facing Milan on March 12. I’m not one for making sweeping changes as I have a total belief in the system and footballing philosophy of the club, and unfortunately the change we most need, getting Vilanova back to full health and back to Barcelona, is something we will just have to pray and wait for.

For me the biggest problem against Madrid was that we failed to match their intensity. Our pressing game was below par while individual errors suggest that concentration was not always at the highest level. This may be due to a number of factors such as our usual dip in physical condition around February, a lack of hunger caused by so much success combined with undoubted loss of Pep Guardiola’s methods of motivation, or the fact that we played three games in seven days and failed to rest Messi, Iniesta, Piqué and Alves against Sevilla. Belief suffered a blow in Milan and the players certainly didn’t help themselves psychologically on Tuesday by sharing the not-uncommon belief that Undiano Mallenco is out to get us.

It’s possible, but I don’t think things would have been very different if we had started with a different XI. We’ll never know how things might have developed had David Villa or Cristian Tello started up front to offer more depth and penetration and, given the chance, more decisiveness in front of goal, but let’s be honest, nothing really changed when they did come on. I don’t coincide with those who say Fabregas and Iniesta can’t play together in their current roles, they have usually shown a very good understanding on the left side and their combinations with Jordi Alba have been key to this season’s team. The problem here has more to do with the sudden drop in form of Fabregas but that brings me to another matter.

Over the two big recent games the players who disappointed me most were Puyol, Fabregas and Xavi. In the case of Puyol I put his mistake in Milan’s second goal down to the whack on the head he took from Pazzini ten minutes before, and the lack of a strong enough coach to substitute him off. Yesterday, El Mundo Deportivo reported that both Xavi and Fabregas have been carrying injuries and that both received pain-killing injections before the game against Madrid. In Xavi’s case he has now suffered a relapse and will be out for ten to fifteen days. One has to wonder about the wisdom of playing of player under these conditions. He may not feel any pain but in his head he is conscious that he is not at 100% and unless he is very strong willed this is bound to affect his game. I know there are times when it pays off (you might recall Iniesta’s brilliant display in Rome 2009 as an example, though the player suffered the effects through much of the 2009/10 season) but having seen Xavi and Cesc’s poor performance in Milan surely it would have made more sense to field 100% fit players against Madrid.

This brings me back to: who is making the decisions? Tito? Roura? The players? And how are they being made? One wonders whether Vilanova would have played Xavi, for example, if he had had the close daily contact to see his exact condition. Xavi would not voluntarily want to duck out of the big game so would understandably say to Roura that he was ready to play, and it’s quite possible that Roura doesn’t feel he has the authority to over-rule the player. I’m only guessing at the scenario and we’ll probably never know the exact details of how Roura and Vilanova confer, but it seems to me there is a problem with the decision making process which could only be changed by some sort of declaration giving Roura total authority to make decisions. He may not be the best man for the temporary position but he’s in the position now and the team needs a leader. Vilanova has enough on his hands with his own personal battle and his recovery is far more important than anything else. I don’t know, perhaps the work is good for him, but I can’t help feeling he should be saving all his strength to beat his illness.

For tomorrow’s game Barça have named a 19-man squad with Alexis returning in place of Xavi, and no place for Montoya, Abidal or Dos Santos. There are bound to be some more changes than just Xavi missing out and Valdés returning in place of Pinto, with Mascherano, Adriano, Song, Thiago, Tello, Alexis and Villa all hoping for a chance to fight for a more regular place in the team.

Madrid may be crowing now, it wasn’t 5-0 or 2-6 but it was the first time they have beaten us comfortably since May 2008. However, their joy has been somewhat dampened by the news this week that Karim Benzema will face speeding charges after being caught driving at the dickhead speed of 216 km/h. There are rumours that another Madrid player was driving at 260 km/h but the speed camera didn’t work correctly so the unnamed lunatic cannot be prosecuted. Pressure is being put on Madrid to name the guilty party.

For tomorrow’s game Mourinho will no doubt make several changes to reserve players for Old Trafford. Di Maria is suspended while according to Marca the others most likely to rest are Varane, Alonso, Özil and Higuaín.

Barça’s 19-man squad: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Adriano, Bartra, Piqué, Puyol, Mascherano, Alba, Song, Busquets, Thiago, Fabregas, Iniesta, Pedro, Alexis, Messi, Villa, Tello.

Possible teams:

Madrid: Diego López; Arbeloa, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Coentrao; Essien, Khedira; Callejón, Kaká, C.Ronaldo; Benzema.

Barça: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Thiago, Busquets, Iniesta; Tello, Messi, Villa.

Prediction: Madrid 1 Barça 2

Date: Saturday 2 March 2013. Kick off 4 pm local time.

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10 Responses to Preview: Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona (game 26 liga 2012/13)

  1. Pingback: Preview: Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona (game 26 liga 2012/13) | There you go again...

  2. Pingback: Preview: Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona (game 26 liga 2012/13) | Views From The Bullpen

  3. Should be fun and very intense.

  4. bc9jaCule says:

    I really like how you touched on different issues and variations in this preview although I beg to differ that we ‘didn’t match Madrid for intensity’. We were only too poor with our match tactics especially in the defensive department. The cog in the wheel (Fabregas) clearly hindered our attacking dimensions and dynamism but that’s no justification for our concession of three goals. Rather, I’ll ALWAYS attribute it to the mindless overlapping of our SLOW defenders which resulted in SHAMBOLIC defending against such a devastating and counter-attacking opponent, for crying out loud. Well, bygone’s bygone now and I can only pray that they eventually learn that they are sorely lacking for pace and should stay back and ACTUALLY execute their PRIMARY DUTY, ie, DEFEND FIRST, before venturing into attacks especially against the BIG WIGS of European football. One more thing, why was Bartra promoted when he’s never being played even against much weaker oppositions (no disrespect intended)? Not even as a regular sub – worrying!

    About today’s game however, I’ll like to see;
    Pinto(YES, PINTO!!!)
    Alves-Pique-Mascherano-Alba
    Thiago-Busquets-Iniesta
    Pedro-Messi-Villa

    Adriano, Song and Tello as subs. Alexis can wait, to play against Deportivo.

    Ceteris Paribu, a 1-3 win for Barca is on the cards. Best of luck.

    Visca Barca!!!!!
    Forca Barca!!!!!

    • barcacentralnic says:

      I’d also like to see Bartra get more opportunities (he could certainly have been used against Sevilla last week).. The strange thing was when Song and Adriano were preferred over him back in Sept/Oct.

  5. barcacentralomer says:

    Interesting points about the mystery behind the decision making. While I hope Tito makes a swift and complete recovery, this ‘remote control’ management mode isn’t something that makes a lot of sense to me. Its extremely unfair on Roura who looks clueless with his tactics.

    Nic I’m afraid I don’t agree with you about Cesc and Iniesta on the left. To be honest, the left flank has been a stop gap arrangement ever since the departure of Henry. Villa was brought in there and didn’t seem comfortable on the wing and while Iniesta has performed reasonably well in that slot, do we really want to play one of our best players out of position? Cesc has been inconsistent for me and I don’t think he has the pace to do serious damage on the wings against teams like Real who sit deep and hit us on the counter.

    Xavi, if he wasn’t fit enough should have sat out the match instead of being outplayed by Alonso and Co. in the midfield and now he’s out for a while. Then he makes a stupid statement about the Copa being an insignificant tourno – even a better reason to sit out the match then. Speaking of statements by Barca – Roura too needs to zip it and let his football do the talking.

    Nic, is it me or does Puyol look like he’s past it? I know he’s a Catalan so they’ll let him play a year or two but would he be playing in another big Euro club at this stage of his career. Barca have SERIOUS problems at the CB position which need to be looked into during the summer. With two wingbacks (or maybe they’re wingers at times) and a snail paced Busquets at the back , the clumsy Pique and the old warhorse are exposed against the very good counterattacking sides like Milan and Madrid.

  6. layibiyi says:

    Good preview. Always a difficult fixture. Thiago is going to need to man up and Iniesta will need to alter his role a bit also if he plays. Too bad xavi is missing because we are really low on leadership at the moment. I’m fine with a draw.

    Also I saw this on twitter…’@barcastuff: Vilanova is now going through the hardest part of his cancer treatment. He’s expected to stay in New York for another month’….
    So I guess we are basically on our own

  7. barcacentralnic says:

    I agree about the left attacking role being a problem since Henry left though I think Villa filled the role excellently before his injury. Villa is still the best option of the “forwards” though he’s not the player he was, while Tello is also a decent alternative though I still think he is more effective as a substitute and against teams that play advanced defences. While I agree that Iniesta’s best position is in midfield I’d say he still offers more than any of the “forwards” playing the left wing. When Fabregas was performing (and for those of you criticising Fabregas I’d remind you of some of the superb performances he put in earlier in the season, at Sevilla or Deportivo for example, and more recently in both league and cup games at Malaga) the left side was working fine and it seemed like our best option. The problem now is down to Cesc’s form which is probably due to him carrying an injury. As I say in the preview you have to wonder about the wisdom of starting a player who is not fully fit, but I insist if Fabregas is at 100% I believe the Fabregas-Iniesta as the best option we have seen this season. It seems likely that depending on how the remainder of the season goes, either Alexis or Villa will leave in the summer. I have plenty of doubts about Neymar and feel the money might be used to find a better option for this position.

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