Camp Nou, Barcelona
Sunday, August 19 2012, 21:00pm GMT
FC Barcelona will start the new La Liga season hosting Real Sociedad, in what will be Tito Vilanova’s first official match as a first team manager. Vilanova will have no time to settle in at all; with the title race yet again likely to go down to the wire, every point is important and every point lost can be fatal, especially at home. Barcelona are expected to start the season strong and further assert their championship credentials.
Real Sociedad, on the other hand, have set European qualification as their goal for the season under Montanier. Starting at Camp Nou is far from ideal, but they can at least hope to catch Barcelona unprepared or still adapting to the new coach’s ideas. The Basque outfit will definitley fancy their chances to get at least a point from their visit to Catalunya and start the new season in the best possible fashion. After all, they were the first team to take points off the Catalans last season, albeit at Anoeta.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The pre-season is finally over and now comes the moment of truth for Tito Vilanova and his team. The Camp Nou is eager to see what new ideas the new manager has brought and the pressure is on him and team to deliver. Being the first game of a new ‘era’ it’s hard to guess what the starting lineup will be, especially since there was no consistent lineup during late pre-season games, but Tito will probably stick with the club’s tradition 4-3-3 formation.
The emphasis, as always, will be on controlling possession and slowly break down La Real’s defense with quick penetrating passes and runs behind the defense. At the back, we should see the debut of new Barcelona signing Jordi Alba at left-back. Alba has greatly impressed at the Euro 2012 and during the pe-season friendlies, showing that he can be a good successor to Eric Abidal at the club. The Catalan full-back will be looking to impress in his first official match at the club. Daniel Alves should start at right-back, while the center-backs will be two of Puyol, Piqué and Mascherano, with the latter two being the more probable choices.
In midfield, the traditional trio of Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta should start, but there’s also a chance Fabregas will start and Iniesta will play up front on the left. In attack, it’s all a matter of which two players will partner Messi; given that Alexis Sanchez will play an international match with Chile shortly before, he could start on the bench, while Pedro is likely to start. David Villa is back from injury but still not ready to play for the full 90 minutes, so he unlikely to feature in this match.
We can expect a Barcelona similar to the one from last season in their home game, trying to assert their superiority from the very start and run away with the match. It remains to be seen whether Tito can replicate Guardiola’s success.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3) : Victor Valdés(GK); Jordi Alba, Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano, Daniel Alves; Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andrés Iniesta; Alexis Sanchez, Pedro Rodriguez, Lionel Messi
Real Sociedad’s goals are understandably far more modest as compared to Barcelona and the pressure not nearly as high, but in their third season after getting promoted to the first division, the club have vowed to aim for European qualification and seem to have a good enough squad to do so. With Agirretxe, Vela and Griezmann up front, La Real have no shortage of fire power and they have plenty of quality talent in other areas of the field as well.
Evidently, a trip to the Camp Nou is far from the ideal way to start collecting points, but Montanier and his players have expressed the belief that they have what it takes to upset the Catalan juggernaut in their den. The key will obviously be to defend in a very compact and discipline and take advantage of the speed and skill of Vela and co. to wreak havoc on the counter.
Montanier is likely to adopt a 4-3-3 formation, where his wingers (Vela and Griezmann) will have the double mission of closing down and help in defence and be a threat on the counter. It will take a very focused and inspired performance, not to mention perfect from a tactical point of view, for Real Sociedad to get anything out of this match against what many consider to be the best squad in Europe.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3) : Claudio Bravo(GK); Iñigo Martinez, José Angel, Mikel Gonzalez, Cadamuro; Estrada, Ruben Pardo, Xabi Prieto; Agirretxe, Carlos Vela, Griezmann
Key Match Facts
- Real Sociedad were the first team to take points off Barcelona last season, with a 2-2 draw at Anoeta on matchday 2.
- Lionel Messi scored 35 goals in 18 home league matches last season.
- Barcelona beat La Real 2-1 at Camp Nou last season.
Player to Watch Out For
Jordi Alba (FC Barcelona)
All eyes will be on Barcelona’s new signing Jordi Alba as he tries to conquer the Camp Nou crowd. A naturally attacking player, Alba is more likely to be seen scampering down the opponent’s right flank than cooped up in his own defensive third. The expectations are high after his great performances at the Euro and with Valencia last season, and the boots to fill are very heavy (Eric Abidal’s).
FC Barcelona 2-0 Real Sociedad
Tito Vilanova will start his reign with a comfortable 2-0 win, with Lionel Messi scoring both goals. Real Sociedad will pose some resistance, but ultimately be unable to deal with Barcelona’s incredible attacking power.
Blast From the Past