There is no doubt that FC Barcelona have an injury crisis on their hands, especially in terms of the defence, Luis Enrique was already having to cope without the Spanish international left back and centre back Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique and the problem got worse this week after the French star Jeremy Matthieu joined them on the sidelines after picking up a foot problem in the Catalonian Super Cup win over Espanyol on Tuesday, as reported by Sky Sports.
The most successful manager in the history of FC Barcelona will be coming back to his old stomping ground this week, as Pep Guardiola brings his new club Manchester City to the Nou Camp for the first of two back to back group games in the Champions League.
The former boss is under no illusion about the size of the task facing Man City either, as he has described his former club as a machine and even though his new side is packed with talents like David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero, Pep has said that his players should expect to have less possession of the ball.
When Barcelona suffered a shock defeat at home to Valencia last week, it saw them slip off the top of the Spanish La Liga table for the first time in months and, with Real Madrid and their city rivals Atletico seemingly in relentless form (winning games even when playing badly) it seemed like it might be a hard task to get that top spot back.
But a spot of luck has given Barca the chance to bounce back at the first opportunity. Atletico travelled to relegation strugglers Almeria but were below par and ended up losing 2-0. To be fair to them, the referee was abysmal and should have given them two penalties and sent two Almeria players off, but all that matters now is that we take advantage of their slip.
One of the most notable features of the new Barcelona manager’s reign has been his willingness, and even insistence on rotating some of his key players. So early in the season, none of the Barca players are in immediate danger of suffering any fatigue or burnout, but Tata Martino knows there is a long season ahead.
Also, it is better for the team to get used to being rested occasionally, so it is no surprise to hear that Tata is planning to drop Xavi Hernandez back to the bench for tonight’s Champions League opening game against Ajax Amsterdam at the Camp Nou. Cesc Fabregas will replace the 33-year old, which is good news for the former Arsenal man who apparently felt he was overlooked for the important games last season.
Tonight Tata Martino takes his Barcelona players to the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid to play Diego Simeone’s Atletico in the first leg of the Spanish super cup. Although the teams involved often describe this first trophy of the season, there is no doubt that they would all prefer to win it rather than lose it.
Simeone has already tried to suggest that it means more to Barcelona and that the Spanish champions are under pressure because they are expected to win it. Just by saying that, the Atletico manager has revealed that he is actually very keen to win it himself. Martino. on the other hand, is not hiding the fact that he is trying his best to win his first trophy with Barcelona and has told his players he expects them to win and he will pick his strongest side.
The young Brazilian striking sensation Neymar will have three weeks to rest and prepare before he has to fly to Barcelona to begin the exciting new European stage of his football career. Hopefully he will be taking it easy between now and then, because he has had a hectic year and has just had an operation to remove the tonsils that had been troubling him on and off for a while now.
The operation will also, hopefully, help Neymar to bulk up, which could really help him in the tough world of Spanish and European football, where his opponents will certainly be trying to outmuscle him and stop him using his prodigious skills.
If Barcelona are on form, they have the ability to score goals, especially if Lionel Messi is back to being close to his best. That is not the main problem for Barca tonight, however. The failure to score an away goal at the Allianz Arena last week has left Tito Vilanova and his team with no margin for error.
If Bayern Munich can score just one goal at the Nou Camp tonight, it will leave Barca needing to score six to progress to the final at Wembley on May 25th. Even at full strength, Barca can be a little vulnerable at the back, but we are far from being at full strength at the moment.
It will take a miracle for Barcelona to come back from last night’s 4-0 beating at the hands of the new German Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. Barcelona at their best and at the Nou Camp can be irresistible, but Bayern proved last night what a good team last night and an away goal would leave Barca neding to score six, so the dream is over for another season. (highlights below)