Barça’s celebrations for winning the 2012/13 Liga will continue at Camp Nou tomorrow night when the president of the Spanish Football Federation, Angel Maria Villar, presents the league trophy to the team after the home match with Valladolid (Sunday kick off 9 pm).
There’s no doubt that the title will taste sweeter following Real Madrid’s defeat in last night’s dramatic Copa del Rey final. It may seem strange to outsiders but there can be no denying that the intense rivalry between the two giants of Spanish football means that the fortunes of each club reflect inversely on the other. Barça fans will almost certainly value this season higher after Madrid’s trophyless season in the same way they undervalued Louis van Gaal’s double winning team in 1997/98 due to Madrid going on to win the Champions League that season.
It seems that this rivalry with Madrid is also spurring Barça on in an attempt to equal last season’s record of 100 points in a season. Three wins in our last three games would see us reach that total while also equalling the record of 32 wins in a season. However, while records are all very well and good there is a danger of losing focus on more important issues. With the league in the bag, rather than worry about points I would prefer to see Vilanova looking to the future and giving a reward to some of the B-team stars such as Rafinha and Deulofeu.
However, at the time of writing these two promising players are preparing for Barça B’s Segunda División game this afternoon with Alcorcón (Saturday kick off 6 pm). Now, I can understand that this game has a lot of significance for other teams in the promotion race, so it seems noble to play our strongest side. However, if these players are going to make it in the first team they should be given the opportunity now to gain some experience. Perhaps, as they are both young they could play on Saturday for the B team and then on Sunday with the big boys but I have no indication that this might be in Tito’s plans.
Barça will be without Carles Puyol and Leo Messi for tomorrow’s game while Alves, Adriano and Abidal are all doubtful. The good news is that Victor Valdés and Javier Mascherano have both trained with the group this morning and they should be in contention to play.
Opponents Valladolid reached safety from relegation last week with their 1-0 win over Deportivo so they also have little to play for except pride. Coach Miroslav Djukic will be without the suspended Antonio Rukavina so he seems likely to switch Mikel Balenziaga to right-back while bringing in Carlos Peña at left-back. Older fans will remember Djukic for his unfortunate last-minute penalty miss that gave Barça a dramatic league title in 1994. If you weren’t around at the time check out the video on the last day of that season.
Whatever happens tomorrow it will be difficult for things to get as bad as that again for Djukic. However, Valladolid will have bad memories of their last visit to Camp Nou on the last day of the 2009/10 season when Barça’s 4-0 win clinched Pep Guardiola’s second consecutive Liga while sending Valladolid down. Earlier in the current season Barça earned a 1-3 victory at Valladolid’s José Zorrilla stadium with goals from Xavi, Messi and Cristian Tello.
Possible starting XIs:
Barça: Valdés; Montoya, Bartrá, Piqué, Alba; Thiago, Busquets, Fabregas; Pedro, Alexis, Tello.
Valladolid: Jaime; Balenziaga, Rueda, Valiente, Peña; Rubio, Victor Perez; Ebert, Oscar, Larsson; Javi Guerra.
Prediction: Barça 4 Valladolid 1
Date: Sunday 19 May 2013. Kick off 9 pm local time.