Influential head coach Manuel Pellegrini has left for pastures new at Manchester City, while three of the club’s top-four goal-scorers from last season have followed him out the door at La Rosaleda; Isco now plies his trade for
An opening night defeat to a relatively toothless
His powerful header might make all the difference in a few days time when the two clubs meet again – and even if it doesn’t, it likely demonstrates that Neymar is finally ready to start for his new team. However, with that important second-leg looming it’s worth asking whether Barcelona need to start the Brazilian tomorrow in order to maintain their 100% start to the La Liga season…
Lionel Messi misses out through injury, but Barcelona are able to welcome Adriano back into the fold, after the Brazilian full-back served a one-game suspension in the first leg of the Supercopa de España. Consequently,
Victor Valdés will start in goal looking to extend his recent run of good form, which has seen the Catalan shot-stopper keep three clean sheets in his last four competitive appearances for club and country. Notching his fourth in five would be some achievement for Valdés given the recent record of the Barcelona defense, and give him some crucial confidence ahead of that pivotal Supercopa second-leg on Wednesday at the Camp Nou.
After starting the first two matches of the season,
Lionel Messi’s injury is likely to force Cesc Fàbregas into a more offensive role, allowing
As mentioned earlier, Cesc Fàbregas is expected to slot into the front-three as Barcelona’s latest false nine, and many anticipate that he will be joined in attack by Pedro and Neymar. Or Neymar and Alexis Sánchez. Or any possible combination that includes Neymar. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing Neymar “saved” for Wednesday, but I could hardly say no to seeing the Brazilian make his first start for the club.
Malaga will be without last season’s starting central defender (and captain) Weligton, who is recovering from surgery at his home in Malaga, while new signing Flavio (also a central defender) is also sidelined through injury. However, there is some good news as
Not that it really matters, as Willy Caballero is still expected to start in goal, while Duda could retain his place after starting in the 1-0 defeat against Valencia. It’ll be interesting to see whether Schuster continues to rely upon a mixture of youth and experience against the Blaugrana – as talented as Fabrice Olinga may be for instance, it seems unlikely that he will start tomorrow, particularly following Schuster’s pre-match comments which suggested a more “defensive” approach.
FC Barcelona 4-1 Malaga CF – 1st June 2013 – La Liga
It was less than three months ago that Barcelona wrapped up their La Liga campaign in style with an emphatic 4-1 win against Malaga, as goals from
Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdés; Adriano, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Pedro, Fàbregas, Neymar
Malaga (4-2-3-1): Caballero; Gamez, Chen, Angeleri, Antunes; Camacho, Tissone; Morales, Portillo, Eliseu; Santa Cruz
Even in the absence of their star player, Barcelona should have more than enough to escape La Rosaleda with all three points – I’m going for a hard-fought 2-0 win.