El Sardinero, Santander
29 August 2010, 23:30 PM IST
The reigning Spanish champions start their 2010-11 campaign away at El Sardinero. The Spanish Super Cup winners showed a lot of character to win the cup after losing the first leg, away at Sanchez Pizuan. Having signed Spanish superstar David Villa, FC Barcelona have their spirits soaring. Racing, on the other hand, had a season to forget, finishing 16th with just 39 points – 3 points and 2 places clear off the relegation zone. Coincidentally last time when Racing had accumulated 39 points in the Spanish top flight, they got relegated (2000-01). After arriving to the Spanish first division, 2009-10 has been the worst season for the home team in terms of points secured. While, FC Barcelona went on to fetch 99 points to become the League Champions for the 20th time. There was an almost unbridgeable gap of 60 points between the two teams.
FC Barcelona has been fairly active in the transfer market, having snapped up David Villa, Adriano & Javier Mascherano (Subjected to a successful medical) and losing quite a few of their established stars. Racing on the other hand has been relatively quiet in terms of finance. Nonetheless, they too has had their share of signings.
FC Barcelona defender Henrique has re-joined the Los Verdiblancos. The Brazilian played for the Cantabrian side in 2009-10, featuring in 22 matches and scored a goal before a knee-injury side-lined him for the rest of the season. Racing was reported to be in hunt for midfielder Marc-Andre Kruska who is in contract with former Bundesliga side Energie Cottbus till 2012. One of Racing’s brightest stars Sergio Canales was supposed to spend the entire 2010-11 season at Racing to gain imperative first team experience. Unfortunately, it wont happen now as Canales will be fighting it out at Real Madrid under the tutelage of ‘The Special One’. Besides them, Racing has signed midfielders Adrian Gonzalez & Toni Moral from Getafe & FC Cartagena, both on free transfers. Midfielder Alexandros Tziolis too has been brought on a season-long loan from Siena. In defence, along with Henrique, Francisco Perez has been brought from Xerez (Free transfer). Attack too has been fortified by the inclusion of Ariel Osten and Kennedy Bakircioglu from Coritiba Football Club and Ajax respectively again on free transfers.
Interesting to see will be Pep Guardiola’s approach towards the first away game of the season. The reported dissonance in the dressing room between star striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the manager might just strain the team’s morale. David Villa will be making his league debut for the champions and as Pep is known for his meticulous preparation, he’ll leave no stones unturned to fetch the full 3 points on offer.
Last season, FC Barcelona scored 4 goals both the times while conceding only once at the El Sardinero. Ibrahimovic’s impending move out of Barcelona may result in this game being his last for the Spanish giant. Whether he gets a place in the starting eleven is not yet known, but it is expected that Guardiola will field his favourite 4-3-3 with Lionel Messi, David Villa & Zlatan Ibrahimovic/ Pedro upfront.
How Racing manager, Miguel Angel Portugal shapes up his team will be interesting. Will he field a defensive team to contain the mighty Catalans or whether he’ll go all out to take advantage of Barca’s unsettled defense is yet to be seen. Albeit chances of the latter aren’t too bright.
Probable starting line-up
FC Barcelona: Valdez, Puyol(C), Pique, Abidal, Alves, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Villa, Ibrahimovic, Messi.
Key match facts:
1. On February 1st 2009, Lionel Messi scored FC Barcelona’s goal number 5000 in Spanish League.
2. Coincidentally, way back in 1929, FC Barcelona’s Manuel Parera scored the club’s first ever goal in La Liga at El Sardinero
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
David Villa (Barcelona)
Lionel Messi is almost at the centre of every discussion regarding Barcelona, notwithstanding to the fact that the team comprises of other fabulous players. This time all eyes will be on the Asturian who has just had had a big money move to Barcelona. After having a fabulous World Cup, he’ll be only too keen to show that he’s worth the money. While at Valencia, even without a fabulous midfield like that of FC Barcelona, David Villa has consistently been in the Pichichi race. Now, with Xavi, Iniesta & Messi beside him, things can only get better.
Racing Santander 1-3 FC Barcelona.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST