It’s been a tough week at Can Barça. The loss of Tito Vilanova has obviously left a mood of sadness at the club which hasn’t been helped by watching the Champions League semi-finals from the sidelines. Rumours abound about possible transfers and the arrival of Luis Enrique (while Tata Martino is still under contract), and the small matter of Leo Messi’s new contract still needs to be settled. With so much talk about next season it might be easy to forget that there are still three games to play in the 2013/14 Liga and Barça are still in with an outside shot of taking the title. To have any chance the team need to win the remaining three games, starting tomorrow with Getafe’s visit to Camp Nou (Saturday kick-off 4 pm). Vilanova will be remembered with Barça wearing a special shirt for the game with the message “Tito Per Sempre Etern” (meaning: “Tito Forever Eternal”).
Barça may have missed out on the Champions League this week but the two semi-finals, particularly Bayern Munich’s 0-4 defeat to Real Madrid, raised questions about footballing philosophies that could have repercussions at Camp Nou. In the Guardian this week Johnathan Wilson asks: is this the end for tiki-taka? and although he concludes that the system is not finished and that teams will still try to control games through possession, he questions whether the style will ever dominate as it did for Ajax in the early 1970s or for Guardiola’s Barça.
For me, the most important part of Wilson’s article is this paragraph:
“In tactics there are no absolute rights and there aren’t many absolute wrongs: there is certainly no magic formula. Tactical theorists aren’t like alchemists searching for the quintessence that will explain everything. There is evolution and development in tactical thinking, but everything is contingent on other factors…. Tiki-taka worked so well at Barcelona in part because of the technical ability of the players, in part because opponents were still adjusting to changes in the offside law and in part because of the intensity of their play. You can get away with a high line and passers rather than defenders in the back line only if there is ferocious pressure on the ball.”
It was that ferocious pressure that was so vital to our success and we need to think about a plan to recover the team’s intensity before any transfer business begins.
Another conclusion that might be made this week is that Barça can’t be that bad if we are still in the title race with the two best teams in Europe. At the end of March we were still unbeaten (two wins and four draws) in six games this season against the two Madrid teams though we then went and lost the all-important games in the Copa del Rey final and Champions League quarter-final.
For tomorrow’s game Carles Puyol still hasn’t recovered from his knee injury so with Valdés, Piqué, Alba, Dos Santos and Neymar all out Martino has named the same 18 players that travelled to Villarreal last week with the newly-fit Isaac Cuenca missing out again. It will be no surprise if Martino picks the same XI of Pinto, Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Adriano, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi and Pedro that won 2-3 at Villarreal though there could always be a place for Fabregas.
Getafe are in great need of getting a result at Camp Nou as they sit just two points above the relegation zone. Coach Cosmin Contra is without Lisandro Lopez, Diego Castro, Pedro Leon and Ciprian Marica for the game but he recuperates Alexis Ruano, Roberto Lago and Ángel Lafita who all missed last week’s 1-0 win over Malaga. Getafe have already suffered three defeats to Barça this season, 2-5 at the Coliseum in La Liga back in December, then 4-0 at Camp Nou and 0-2 at the Coliseum in the Copa del Rey.
Barça: Pinto, Olazábal, Montoya, Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Adriano, Song, Busquets, Xavi, Sergi Roberto, Iniesta, Fabregas, Pedro, Alexis, Messi, Tello, Afellay.
Getafe: Jordi Codina, Julio César, Alexis Ruano, Roberto Lago, Rafa Lopez, Álvaro Arroyo, Sergio Escudero, Juan Valera, Mehdi Lacen, Ángel Lafita, Pablo Sarabia, Jaime Gavilán, Jorge Sammir, Juan Rodríguez, Míchel, Borja Fernández, Pedro Mosquera, Adrián Colunga.
Barça: Pinto; Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Adriano; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Alexis, Messi, Pedro.
Getafe: Julio Cesar; Valera, Alexis, Rafa, Escudero; Juan Rodriguez, Lacen; Lafita, Sarabia, Gavilan; Colunga.
Prediction: Barça 3 Getafe 0
Date: Saturday 3 May 2014. Kick-off 4 pm local time.