Will Barca show signs of recovery in Spain?
Madrid, March 8 (IANS): Will the real FC Barcelona stand up and be counted and even if they do, will it make much difference?
Harsh questions for sure, but after the past three weeks of uncertainty surrounding the performances of the leaders of the BBVA Primera Liga football, perhaps fair ones.
Barca have suffered two defeats to Real Madrid and one to AC Milan in the past three weeks, but it is not the fact they have lost that is so worrying – it is the way Barca have lost, playing flat-footed, tired football, and not looking anything like the sprightly side that opened up such a huge lead at the top of the table.
They still hold an 11 point lead over Atletico Madrid, and 13 over Real Madrid, and should be favourites to score an easy win against bottom of the table Deportivo la Coruna, for which reason Saturday’s game in the Camp Nou is a poor barometer of their current form ahead of AC Milan’s visit to Barca’s home ground next Tuesday.
Barca will be without the injured Xavi Hernandez, and coach Jordi Roura will have to decide whether it is best to rest some players who have looked tired of late, or to give them game time to ensure they don’t lose match fitness.
Barca’s main rivals in the league table both play on Sunday, with Atletico Madrid at home to Real Sociedad, who have been the surprise package of the season in Spain.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone will be looking to celebrate his new contract with a win, but Real Sociedad travel with their confidence sky high and aiming for a place in Europe.
Real Madrid should be favourites away to Celta Vigo, who are third from bottom of the table after a 4-1 thumping to Sevilla last Monday. Expect Jose Mourinho to focus all his sides efforts on winning the Champions League after their controversial win away to Manchester United, but with time before the quarter-finals, Mourinho should field something like his strongest side in Vigo.
Valencia’s European dream came to an end after a battling draw away to Paris Saint Germain on Wednesday, and they have little time to recover before a midday kick-off away to Athletic Club Bilbao, who will be without suspended playmaker Ander Herrera, but who will have former Valencia striker Aritz Aduriz leading the attack.
Betis kick off the weekend at home to a solid Osasuna side, which still needs points to climb away from the danger zone, while there should be an attractive game in Vallecas between an attacking Rayo Vallecano and a vastly improved Espanyol.
Saturday’s final game will see Mallorca try and build on their surprise win in Granada at home to Sevilla, who were Mallorca coach Gregorio Manzano’s former club.
Meanwhile, Malaga will rest players ahead of their Champions League tie next week for their trip to Valladolid, while Levante will probably also make rotations after this Thursday’s Europa League tie at home to Ruben Kazan.
The round of matches ends on Monday with a game between two struggling sides, as Zaragoza look for their first win of 2013 at home to a Granada side that has lost its last three games.