La Liga Preview (And News): FC Barcelona v Real Zaragoza, Or, Puyol Is Back!By: Ade C. | November 16th, 2012
First things first, let us catch up with the latest happenings in Can Barça…
-Alexis will be out of commission for a whole month (4 weeks) after spraining his ankle in a friendly with the Chile NT, proving once again that international breaks are evil and stupid, like the RFEF.
-Spurred by a MundoDeportivo exclusive which spilled the beans this morning, the club have confirmed that, starting next season, the terrible Qatar Foundation logo on the shirts will be replaced by the even more terrible and commercial Qatar Airways logo, thus signifying one more step in President Rosell’s plans to commercialise the club to death and then sell the viewing rights over the dead body.
-And Victor Valdés broke the news of his new fatherhood on Twitter. At the rate this is going, in two decades Barça will have a suspiciously familiar squad…
And now let’s focus on football and what’s happening this weekend!
Barça meet Zaragoza this weekend, after 90% of the squad have spent their week in planes to and from distant corners of the world (have I mentioned I hate international breaks?). Messi and Mascherano were in Saudi Arabia, the Spanish internationals (sans Xavi, thank Del Bosque) flew all the way to Panama, Dani Alves was in New York (and then, to show his growing commitment to recovering his form, went straight from the airport to the Ciutat Esportiva to join the team in recovery training), and the younger Spaniards went to Italy to sightsee and play with the U21s.
So, everyone’s tired and jet-lagged and they have to travel to Russia on Monday so they’ll be even more tired and jet-lagged for the midweek Champions League match.
That’s exactly the kind of situation that leads to upsets that we will regret later in the season, isn’t it?
On the ‘good news’ side of the equation, though, we have Piqué, firmly back from injury, Villa and Pedro, in fine goal-scoring form if their performance with Spain is any indication, and even… *drumroll* … the one and only Carles Puyol, who has been cleared to play after the last training session, 45 days after dislocating his elbow against Benfica.
Zaragoza stand in the middle of La Liga table right now, having had good results against teams like Deportivo, Sevilla and Osasuna, but losing obediently to Real Madrid, Valencia, and the like. There are familiar faces to be spotted in their squad for those of us who’ve followed Barça B, like Edu Oriol, and familiar faces with those who’ve followed La Liga (Leo Franco? Helder Postiga? Romaric?), but no superstars. And no defenders, either! Zaragoza have got into the Barça fashion and have their two full-backs suspended and one of their usual centre-backs injured, so the game will be decided by who plays more players out of position.
Or not. Because, even with recent and not-so-recent injuries (Thiago and Cuenca, remember them?), Barça do have something resembling a full squad. The problem is that it’s an extremely tired squad. There have been grumbles about Mascherano’s recent drop in form, but it was only to be expected, with how long he has not only been playing every match, but holding up the defence in the absence of Puyol, Piqué, and anything even vaguely resembling a natural defender.
So, Tito needs to field a good team, but he also needs to rest an alarming number of people. Oh, and Busquets is suspended thanks to all those yellow cards he keeps picking up.
My humble proposal is,
Alves will probably be rested on account of his late arrival from the international matches, and it’s unlikely that Puyol will be played from the start even if he is cleared to play, so this seems like a good chance to test the Piqué-Bartra partnership. Song will have to step in for Busquets, if he’s recovered from the suspiciously-timed back discomfort that kept him from travelling with the Cameroon NT, unless Tito surprises us all by using JDS, which is unlikely. Xavi got some rest this week, so he can take over from Iniesta and partner Cesc, who Tito seems determined to start until we like him. And up front, with Alexis’ absence, we don’t have as many options as we used to: one of Pedro and Villa should get some rest, and it’s likely that it will be the guy coming back from a lengthy injury, though Villa might get some minutes near the end against his former team.
It doesn’t have to be pretty, and it likely won’t be (though if we can do this without scoring own goals or conceding stupid penalties, that’d be an improvement), but we have to get the three points and keep Atlético and Real Madrid at bay for as long as we can. And then, wrap up warm to travel to Moscow to recover from the disappointment at Celtic Park!
Some Related Barcelona Posts:
- Injury News: Puyol Dislocates His Elbow Against Benfica
- La Liga Preview: FC Barcelona vs Real Sociedad, Or, Woohoo, La Liga Is Back!