Saturday, November 17, 8pm GMT
Camp Nou, Barcelona
Matchday 12 of La Liga will see leaders FC Barcelona host Real Zaragoza at Camp Nou. The Catalans have been almost unstoppable so far in La Liga, dropping only two points until now, while Zaragoza have been having a quite solid season thus far after miraculously avoiding relegation last season and travel to Camp Nou with little to no pressure, unlike Barcelona, who always need to win to keep the distance at the top.
Zaragoza have been in very good form though and promise to present a very tricky challenge to the Catalan juggernaut. This might very well turn into a very difficult affair for Barcelona.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Things could hardly be going better for Barcelona in La Liga as the Catalans look to further improve their record to 12 wins and 1 draw and at least keep their 8 point lead over eternal rivals Real Madrid. Tito Vilanova knows that, despite the seemingly comfortable lead, every match is a must win with an opponent like Real Madrid in the shadows awaiting a Barcelona slip up to make their move and put the Catalans under pressure.
Sergio Busquets saw his fifth yellow card of the league season against Mallorca and is suspended for this match; Puyol, Piqué, Song and Xavi are all doubts for different reasons, but they all have the medical clearance to play if Tito so wishes. It is quite possible that, at least in some of those cases, the injury in question was exaggerated so the players could rest during the international break. Busquets is the only confirmed absence, every other player can be selected by Tito Vilanova.
The Barcelona manager will deploy his traditional 4-3-3 looking to dominate the match through possession, quick passing and penetration as Barcelona always do. The lineup is almost impossible to predict, what with some players potentially tired after international duty in midweek and some doubts regarding some players’ fitness – Valdés in goal and Messi up front are pretty much the only two certainties at this point. Whatever the lineup might be, Barcelona will try to impose their game from the start and secure yet another convincing win in front of their supporters.
Probable Lineup: Victor Valdés; Jordi Alba, Gerard Piqué, Marc Bartra, Daniel Alves; Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas, Andrés Iniesta; Pedro Rodriguez, Christian Tello, Lionel Messi
Manolo Jimenez made a miracle of sorts with Zaragoza last season saving them from certain relegation, and he has continued his good work this season – Zaragoza are playing good football and getting good results. They are currently 11th in La Liga, with the same number of points as European contenders like Valencia and Sevilla.
Their trip to the Santiago Bernabeu a few weeks ago ended in a loopsided 4-0 defeat, but the match was closer than the scoreline indicates, with the final two goals coming in the dying minutes and Iker Casillas saving Real Madrid on more than a few occasions. Jimenez will surely believe that his team might be a bit more fortunate at Camp Nou, although the odds are firmly stacked against them. That match at the Bernabeu was actually the only one in the last four where Zaragoza dropped points, with wins over Sevilla, Granada and Deportivo all at home.
Jimenez should deploy his usual 4-2-3-1 formation with the in form Postiga as the lone striker and main hope for goals. The club’s talismanic keeper Roberto will surely start (Zaragoza need a great performance from him if they are to get anything from this match), with a defense composed of Sapunaru, Loovens, Alvaro and Abraham, shielded by Movilla and Romaric. Rodriguez and Montañes will play on the wings, with Apoño behind Postiga.
The emphasis will of course be on defense, with every man bar Postiga behind the ball. Trying to sneak a goal will be in the agenda as well, but the main priority will be to stiff Barcelona’s attack – a huge task by any standards.
Probable Lineup: Roberto; Sapnunaru, Loovens, Alvaro, Abraham; Movilla, Romaric; Rodriguez, Apoño, Montañes; Postiga
Key Match Facts
- Zaragoza have scored 14 goals in La Liga so far… Lionel Messi has scored 15.
- Barcelona have ‘only’ scored 13 goals at home, compared to 23 on the road.
- Zaragoza have won 2 of their first 5 away matches.
- Last season’s corresponding fixture ended 4-0 to Barcelona.
TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out For
Cesc Fabregas (FC Barcelona)
Cesc’s performances have been quite inconsistent lately, alternating great matches with very subdued ones, but he has shown glimpses of his tremendous potential and with Xavi potentially sidelined for this match the Camp Nou crowd will be expecting a great performance from the former Arsenal player.
FC Barcelona 2-0 Zaragoza
It will be a tricky match for the hosts, but eventually their superior talent will prevail with Lionel Messi scoring yet another brace to secure the three points in the second half.