F.C. Barcelona go into today’s clash in Vigo against a Celta side that have been making noises in the Spanish media claiming it is the perfect time to face the League Champions elect. As much as the Catalans may see this as a lack of respect from the Galician outfit, circumstances going into the game would appear to back their claims up.
Barça have the Champions League quarter final versus Paris Saint-Germain coming up on Tuesday and may well rest many of the players that would be expected to start that match at the Parc des Princes in the league clash today at the Estadio Balaídos. Add to that the now legendary “FIFA Virus” which has claimed Jordi Alba, Xavi Hernández and Pedro Rodríguez to injury and Javier Mascherano and Lionel Messi having endured altitude sickness in Bolivia and it could well be an unfamiliar line up that takes to the pitch at kick off this early evening.
Messi will most likely feature from the start. The Argentine doesn’t like to miss a minute of a match and, although having thrown up at half time in La Paz due to the altitude sickness that affected the majority of the Argentinean squad, is going for a unique record of having scored against every team in the league in consecutive matches. He has scored in 18 league matches in a row, another record for the little genius, and only has Celta left to make it the perfect half of a season in terms of goal scoring, a feat never achieved in world football.
The midfield for tonight’s match could well be missing what is considered to be the starting three. Xavi was a worry on his return to Barcelona after the victory against the French in Paris for La Roja on Tuesday. What was initially feared to be a tear was revealed to be a hamstring strain after scans. He subsequently made a press statement stating that he felt fine, would rest at the weekend and be fully fit to face PSG in midweek. Andrés Iniesta also picked up a slight knock during the World Cup clash and will most likely be rested. Sergio Busquets was involved in a clash of heads with Madrid’s Karim Benzema and may well also miss tonight’s match.
Defensively, Barça are missing Jordi Alba at left back, having succumbed to a hamstring tear and could be missing for a couple of week, Martín Montoya will most likely be his replacement. Carles Puyol is also out having undergone surgery on a recurring knee problem. Javier Mascherano succumbed to cramp at the end of an exhaustive match in World Cup qualifying in Bolivia, many of the Argentine squad were sucking on oxygen masks for large parts of that match. A welcome return to the 1st team is Eric Abidal, who will travel as part of the squad. Victor Valdés is still serving a suspension for his reaction to the non award of a penalty at the end of the league Clásico in Madrid so is forced to stay at home. Pinto will start in goal against his former club.
Up front Pedro will be missing for up to ten days, but would have missed the match trough suspension so would have rested. David Villa could also start in the bench with Paris in mind.
Under these circumstances it could be considered the perfect time to give youth a chance. A number of B team players have been called up to the 1st team and could well feature this evening. However, FIFA viruses, Champions League quarter finals, tiredness and injury should not distract attention from the fact that this is another step on the road to the league title. As much as ideas of a return to the 1st team of Abidal, a start for Oier in goal, Bartra in defence and Deulofeu up front seem appealing, yet three points are at stake.
Barça may well give Alex Song a start in the role usually occupied by Busquets. The former Arsenal man has rarely featured in his first season at the Camp Nou and has been linked with a return to his former home in the summer. Thiago Alcántara’s and Cesc Fàbregas will provide the creative spark ahead of him.
Up front Messi will most likely be flanked by Alexis Sánchez and Cristian Tello. If the game flows in Barça’s favour, there may well be an opportunity for the bright young prospect Gerard Deulofeu in the latter stages.
The probable line up is: Pinto; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Montoya; Song, Fàbregas, Thiago; Alexis, Messi and Tello.