Camp Nou, Barcelona
March 6, 2011; 12:30 am, IST
After a rigorous match at the Mestalla, Barcelona hosts Zaragoza at the Camp Nou. The last time these two teams met, at the La Romareda, it was a ‘bloody’ affair. Miguel Ángel Pérez Lasa, the man in-charge, flashed the yellow card 6 times; Ponzio was cautioned twice, and sent off. With a goal on either side of the half, Leo Messi proved to be the Messiah for Barcelona, yet again. However, Barcelona will be better equipped this time around and Zaragoza too would be brimming with confidence after a difficult, yet inspiring win against Athletic Bilbao at San Mames.
Team News and Tactical Brief
After a hiatus of two weeks, Barcelona will play at the Camp Nou. In the midweek clash, Barcelona took on a resolute Valencia and a belligerent Mestalla and came out unscathed. Lionel Messi was the redeemer yet again. After a tough away victory, the spirit of the entire camp would be high. However, the scenario with physical fitness isn’t the same. Carles Puyol has recuperated from his injury and has resumed training. However, it’s doubtful if he’ll make an appearance in the match, keeping in mind the crucial midweek clash against Arsenal. Gerard Pique, who is suspended for the match against Arsenal, will lead the Barcelona defense. In the crucial away match against Valencia, Guardiola didn’t risk an error prone Maxwell and slotted in a relatively more reliable Sergio Busquets to partner Pique. This however, seems unlikely this weekend. Maxwell might just make his way back into the team and Busquets will be shouldering the responsibility in the midfield.
Victor Valdes has been given the medical green light; however the likelihood of Valdes being risked, looks a bit vague. In that case, Pinto will start as usual. Ruben Mino might not be tested at this juncture, as mathematically, Barcelona still hasn’t won the league. Dani Alves will be carrying out his usual duties on the right. The midfield trio of Iniesta, Xavi and Busquets should start, but might be substituted early should the hosts notch up a couple of goals early into the game. Pedro is expected to make a comeback into the team after being rested for the Valencia clash. He along with Messi and Villa will lead the 3-man attack. Lionel Messi wasn’t at his effervescent best against Valencia and missed quite a lot of chances. David Villa too looked off colour and didn’t quite have a memorable return to Mestalla. These two will have to shoulder a lot of responsibility ahead of the crucial tie against English side Arsenal. Jeffren too is available for this match, but is unlikely to get a nod ahead of the likes of Keita, Mascherano and Afellay. On the other hand, it’s still not very sure if Guardiola can attend the match or not. However, he’s recovering well.
Probable Starting Line-up: Pinto, Alves, Pique, Abidal, Maxwell, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Villa, Messi, Pedro.
The Blanquillos had a memorable outing against Athletic Bilbao at the San Mames. Javier Aguirre’s men came from behind to beat a resolute Bilbao team. Jiri Jarosik cancelled Fernando Llorente’s opener and Uche earned them the winning goal. With this victory, Zaragoza moves out of relegation zone. They are now two points clear of the bottom three and with a little less than one-third of the season left, they can hope to survive in the Spanish top tier.
“It will be difficult, but we’ll go there to compete. The victory over Athletic will help us to prepare for the game against the best team in the world,” said Uche. However, things don’t look too rosy for them. With a single away victory this season and only two victories in 56 encounters at the Camp Nou, Aguirre’s men do not pose a strong threat to the Spanish champions. Further, the absence of first choice keeper, Leo Franco, will definitely not help Zaragoza’s cause. However, Toni Doblas will stand in for the injured Franco.
Probable Starting Line-up: Doblas, Contini, Jarosik, Obradovic, Lanzaro, Ponzio, Gabi, Boutahar, Bertolo, Uche, Sinama-Pongolle
- Record – Barcelona v Zaragoza at the Camp Nou: 56 games. Barcelona won 43, Zaragoza won 2. Draws 11.
- 4 Barcelona players are 1 yellow card away from a Liga suspension: Valdes, Busquets, Mascherano and Messi.
- 47 of Barcelona’s 77 Liga goals have been scored by Spaniards. Rest by Messi (27), Alves (1) and Keita (1).
Key Facts courtesy @barcastuff
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
This section is probably pointless as long as the Messiah keeps playing for Barcelona. When an individual keeps delivering world class performances, week-in week-out, it’s difficult to ignore him in favour of greater variety.
FC Barcelona 3-0 Real Zaragoza
The hosts look poised for yet another 3 points and stretch their lead to 10 points over real Madrid, who don’t play till Sunday. However, should Zaragoza take anything from this match, it’d be undoubtedly their best game irrespective of whether they stay in the Spanish top tier or not.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST
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