Eric Abidal has been named in Barça’s 19-man list for tomorrow’s’s game with Celta at Balaidos. Just under a year since undergoing a liver transplant the Frenchman continues his long road to recovery with a return to the squad. However, Barça travel to Vigo this evening without Tito Vilanova. The Barça coach took his first training session this afternoon but his doctors have advised him not to travel with the team so Jordi Roura will continue in charge as Barça look to take another step towards the 22nd Liga title.
It is hoped that Vilanova will be well enough to travel to Paris for the Champions League quarter final with PSG on Tuesday. Barça are also without the suspended Victor Valdés and the injured Pedro, Xavi, Puyol, Adriano and Jordi Alba for tomorrow’s game, so Barça B players Oier Olazabal and Gerard Deulofeu have been added to the squad for the trip.
With the match in Paris just round the corner it may be difficult for Barça to remain fully focused on the immediate task. With a lead of 13 points over second placed Real Madrid it may be inevitable that the players find it difficult to maintain the intensity in the league, especially on the eve of a Champions League tie. However, we still need eighteen points to cross the finishing line, and there can be no better preparation for the PSG game than a win over Celta. Tomorrow’s game has the added interest of a possible extension to Leo Messi’s scoring record, as he could complete an entire vuelta of consecutive games scoring against all 19 of La Liga’s other clubs.
Celta are facing a hard fight against relegation this season. Poor results led to the sacking of coach Paco Herrera midway through February with the ex-Atlético Madrid goalkeeper Abel Resino taking over. Resino saw his new team beat Granada 2-1 in his first game in charge but since then Celta have suffered three straight defeats which leave them struggling in 19th position on 23 points.
Resino will be without several players for tomorrow’s game, top scorer Iago Aspas begins a four-match ban after getting sent off for head-butting Carlos Marchena in the 3-1 defeat at Deportivo two weeks ago, and Michael Krohn-Dehli, Andrés Tuñez, Hugo Malla, Samuel, Alex Lopez and reserve goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez are all out too. However, it is first choice keeper Javi Varas who may be key to Celta’s chances tomorrow.
Many will remember Varas for saving Messi’s last minute penalty in the 0-0 draw with Sevilla last season but he is also the last goalkeeper in La Liga who managed to prevent Messi from scoring. The day after Messi became a father back in November Adriano, Villa and Alba scored the goals in Barça’s 3-1 win but Varas denied Messi the chance to dedicate a goal to little Thiago. Since then, of course, Messi has scored against every other club and he now has the opportunity to include Celta for a ‘full-set’ and extend his remarkable scoring record to 19 games. However, Barça and Messi should be warned that despite Celta’s lowly league position only three clubs have conceded fewer goals at home than the Galicians.
With PSG in mind, Vilanova and Roura may decide to keep the Messi on the bench. Both Mascherano and Messi played an exhausting match for Argentina at altitude in Bolivia on Tuesday, and with the long journeys involved it might be considered wise to rest the Argentinians for the Champions League. However, it often seems that in these cases the coaches simply ask the players if they feel okay to play. If this is this case you can be pretty sure that both Mascherano and Messi will opt to play.
Barça’s 19-man squad: Pinto, Oier, Alves, Montoya, Bartrá, Piqué, Mascherano, Abidal, Busquets, Song, Johnathan dos Santos, Thiago, Fabregas, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi, Villa, Tello, Deulofeu.
Celta: Javi Varas; Jonny, Cabral, Demidov, Lago; Oubiña, Pranjic; Augusto Fernandez, Park Chu Young, De Lucas; Bermujo.
Barça: Pinto; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Montoya; Thiago, Busquets, Fabregas; Alexis, Messi, Villa.
Prediction: Celta 1 Barça 2
Date: Saturday 30 March 2013. Kick off 6 pm.