Barça’s final match of 2014 is the visit of Miloslav Djukic’s Cordoba to Camp Nou for the 16th round of La Liga 2014/15 (Saturday 4 pm). Dani Alves trained alone today and is doubtful for the game though Neymar Jr rejoined the group and should be fit to play. Besides Thomas Vermaelen the rest of the squad is available and Luis Enrique will name his 18-man list for the match tomorrow morning.
The calendar year ends without a major trophy for the first time since 2008 which demonstrates that all is not well at Camp Nou. It is especially frustrating when rivals Real Madrid go from strength to strength and look likely to complete their year with the Club World Cup in Morocco. There are many doubts about the current situation at the club but it seems we will have to accept the board are staying put until 2016.
With this is mind I feel we need patience with the team and Luis Enrique. Unfortunately the coach remains vague on his views of how the team can improve, preferring wide-ranging statements that work is being done in several areas. There are positive signs: nobody misses Victor Valdés with Claudio Bravo performing so well while Ter Stegen provides a much better option than Pinto. Messi and Neymar have connected more productively than last season while others such as Jordi Alba and Javier Mascherano have been in very good form. However, there seems to be an over-reliance on the forwards with the midfield lacking the influence of previous years. In defence Piqué has again been inconsistent while the right-back position has been particularly problematic with Alves a long way from his best still proving a better option than the various other possibilities.
If Alves misses tomorrow’s game then Adriano, rather than Montoya or Douglas seems most likely to take his place. I’d like to see the option of Marc Bartra at right-back given more time while I also believe Mascherano could do a good job there if needed. Elsewhere the team is likely to be a complete change from the side that hammered Huesca in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday with Bravo, Piqué, Mathieu Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Rakitic, Suarez, Messi and Neymar all likely to start.
Cordoba will always be remembered as the team that beat Barça 1-0 in the penultimate week of the 1971/72 season with each Cordoba player receiving a 100,000 pts “bonus” payment from Real Madrid who took advantage of the result to clinch the title. Cordoba were relegated at the end of that season and after 42 years this is their first season back in the top flight. The Andalusian team has never won at Camp Nou and while they haven’t played in the league since 1972 though they visited in the Copa del Rey as recently as January 2013 when Barça won 5-0 to complete a 7-0 aggregate win. Cordoba have struggled on their return to the Primera División and they currently sit in 18th place with just eleven points. They didn’t manage a win before surprising Athletic Club two weeks ago when Algerian striker Nabil Ghilas scored the only goal of the game at San Mames.
On paper the fixture looks easy for Barça. Anything less than victory will be seen as a disaster. With Madrid now four points above us in the table we must take advantage of our rivals missing a game this week by defeating Cordoba to leave the gap at just one point going into the Christmas break.
Barça: Bravo; Adriano, Piqué, Mathieu, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Rakitic; Suarez, Messi, Neymar.
Cordoba: Carlos; Campabadal, Lopez, Pantic, Pinillos; Deivid, Luso; Borja, Abel, Fidel; Ghilas.
Prediction: Barça 4 Cordoba 0
Date: Saturday 20 December 2014. Kick-off 4 pm local time.