FC Barcelona will go into Sunday’s match away at Real Zaragoza missing a number of 1st team regulars. With the semi-finals of the Champions League in just under two weeks, a number of stars will be rested and rotated in the matches before the two clashes against Bayern Munich.
The highest profile absentee is Lionel Messi. The Argentine was on the bench for Wednesday’s 2nd leg of the quarter final against Paris Saint-Germain, but was required to make an appearance in the 2nd half with the Catalans losing 0-1 and looking to be on their way out of the tournament.
The mere presence on the pitch of the mercurial Messi shifted the mentality of both teams and it was his pass to Villa, who then set up Pedro to strike, that led to the goal that levelled the score on the night and sent Barça through on away goals.
With a healthy 13 point lead in the league, there is no need to risk the hamstring of the Argentine and he will not travel. His great friend José Manuel Pinto will also stay at home as he is suffering from back pain. Sergio Busquets is another that will miss the trip due to a groin strain, along with long term absentees Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano.
Jordi Alba and Andrés Iniesta have been rested and left out of the squad. Both Spanish internationals have played a high number of matches in recent months and will stay at home in Barcelona for a well deserved rest. Adriano (who had to be substituted on Wednesday with what appeared to be another hamstring strain) is in the squad and is expected to start the match.
Youngsters Oier (Goalkeeper) and Sergi Roberto (Midfielder) have been called up to the 1st team squad from Barça B along with Jonathon Dos Santos who makes a return to the 1st team.
With the 1st leg in Munich on the 23rd of April, Tito Vilanova will most likely rotate his starting 11 in the coming matches knowing that his club have the safety net of a 13 point lead over nearest rivals Real Madrid.
The side from the Spanish capital are also expected to leave Özil, Arbeloa, Essien and Kaká in Madrid for their last ever visit to the San Mamés in Bilbao, with their match against Borussia Dortmund in mind.
In his pre match press conference today, Jordi Roura stated that the players were looking tired and the changes to the squad were necessary given the full calendar of matches they have had to play. In midweek against PSG, at times Barça looked exhausted and struggling to keep up with the marauding Parisians.
As with Barça’s fans, the technical staff will hope that the changes can help freshen a tired looking squad and revive their energy before those two vital matches against the newly crowned German Champions.
The 18 man squad for the trip to Zaragoza is: Valdés, Dani Alves, Piqué, Fàbregas, Xavi, Villa, Alexis, Thiago, Dos Santos, Bartra, Pedro, Montoya, Adriano, Abidal, Song, Tello, Oier (31) and Sergi Roberto (28).