May is upon us. And for the first time in six years Barça enter the fifth month of the year with three possible titles in play. The 2008/09 season ended with a unforgettable triplete of Copa, Liga and Champions League in Pep Guardiola’s first season as Barça’s coach. Luis Enrique’s team are hoping to emulate that feat, starting tomorrow with a vital league game at bottom-of-the-table Cordoba (Saturday 4 pm) on the sixth anniversary of Barça’s famous 2-6 victory over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Barça’s advantage over Madrid at the top of table remains at just two points, leaving no margin of error in the four league matches still to play. Of Barça’s remaining fixtures the game at Atlético Madrid obviously stands out as the toughest test while tomorrow’s game at Cordoba and the home games against Real Sociedad and Deportivo appear relatively straightforward. Football, however, is full of surprises and we really should have learnt by now to take nothing for granted. The last time Barça played a league match in Cordoba was the penultimate game of the 1971/72 season. Cordoba were already doomed to relegation but inspired by a 100,000 peseta per player incentive from Real Madrid they won the game 1-0 and ended Barça’s title hopes that year.
Forty-three years later and Cordoba again look sure for drop and their relegation may well be confirmed this weekend. Without a win since January 12, Los Cordobesistas have failed to take a single point in their last seven games at the Nuevo Arcángel stadium. An eighth successive home defeat may appear a certainty but Cordoba only lost by one goal to Madrid, Valencia and Athletic Club in their run of home defeats, suggesting they are not such a pushover. A game against Barça will surely be motivation enough for Jose Antonio Romero’s players who may never get another chance to face the likes of Messi, Neymar and Suárez.
For Barça, Luis Enrique has demonstrated his ability to motivate his players and there should be no drop in the high level of intensity tomorrow. The Barça coach will again face a complicated decision of who and how many players he can rest before Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg with Bayern Munich. Piqué, Alba, Mascherano, Rakitic and Iniesta all sat out of Barça’s 6-0 hammering of Getafe so they might be expected to play at Cordoba. The main question is whether any of the forwards is going to get a break but Lucho was giving no clues in his press conference today.
The players will train this afternoon before Luis Enrique names his squad which will then fly out to Andalucia this evening for an overnight stay before tomorrow’s afternoon kick-off.
Cordoba: Juan Carlos; Crespo, Iñigo López, Deivid, Edimar; Fidel, Luso, Krhin, Fede Vico; Ghilas, Bebé.
Barça: Bravo; Alves, Piqué, Mathieu, Alba; Rakitic, Mascherano, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Pedro.
My bet: correct score – Cordoba 1 Barça 4 (current odds: 15.00) The best odds for soccer betting are at William Hill.
Date: Saturday 2 May 2015. Kick-off 4 pm local time.