Having successfully overcome the tense Champions League quarter-final with Paris Saint-Germain it’s back to La Liga for Barça with an away game at Real Zaragoza (Sunday 7 pm). We need just twelve more points to clinch our 22nd Liga but tomorrow the team will again be without Leo Messi who has been left out of the 18-man squad for the trip along with Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Andrés Iniesta and José Manuel Pinto.
The positive news is that Adriano Correia has recovered from his muscle strain and will travel with the group while goalkeeper Oier Olazábal and midfielder Sergi Roberto from Barça B have also been included in the list.
Zaragoza will be without their first choice left-back, the ex-blaugrana Abraham Minero, who was sent off in last week’s 3-2 defeat at Deportivo. Coach Manolo Jimenez will probably choose between Jose Manuel Fernandez and Javier Parades as Abraham’s substitute. A run of five draws and eight defeats since their last league win in December has seen our opponents slip dangerously down the table and they now sit just a point above the relegation zone on 27 points. However, we should take a warning from Real Madrid’s 1-1 draw at the Romareda two weeks ago that we cannot afford to take our opponent lightly. Only four points separate the five bottom clubs in La Liga and Zaragoza will be scrapping for every point they can get. Barça’s recent record of only two wins in the last nine away games suggests we are not finding the necessary intensity on our travels.
A possible solution to increase intensity would be to bring in some young blood into the team. Bartrá, Montoya and Tello should all get another chance to start while Sergi Roberto and Johnathan dos Santos could well have an opportunity during the 90 minutes. Older players like Xavi and David Villa could start tomorrow’s game on the bench which would mean a possible lineup of Valdés returning after his four-match ban in goal, Alves, Bartrá, Piqué and Montoya in defence, a midfield three of Thiago, Song and Fabregas, with Pedro, Alexis and Tello up front.
League games between the teams in Zaragoza have historically been very close with 21 victories each and 16 draws. However, in recent years Barça have been more dominant and the last time Zaragoza took any points from us was in a 1-0 win back in the 2006/07 season. Since then Barça have won four times in La Romareda including last season’s 1-4 victory. This run could be in danger tomorrow if we underestimate the task at hand.
Barça’s 18-man squad: Valdés, Oier, Alves, Montoya, Bartrá, Piqué, Adriano, Abidal, Song, Dos Santos, Thiago, Xavi, Sergi Roberto, Fabregas, Pedro, Alexis, Villa, Tello.
Possible starting XIs:
Zaragoza: Roberto; Sapunaru, Loovens, Alvaro, Fernandez; Movilla, Apoño; Oriol, Rodri, Montañes; Postiga.
Barça: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Bartrá, Montoya; Thiago, Song, Fabregas; Pedro, Alexis, Tello.
Prediction: Zaragoza 1 Barça 2
Date: Sunday 14 April 2013. Kick off 7 pm local time.