First challenge of 2011
Barça will start 2011 without Messi, Puyol or Piqué against Levante, three of the most regular members of the first team.
Barcelona (FCB).- Guardiola has given Leo Messi permission to extend his holiday until January 1 or 2, while Gerard Piqué is suspended. To make matters worse, Carles Puyol is injured, but Barça have constantly shown recently that they have enough strength in depth to cover for such misfortunes.
Doing without Messi
Guardiola rarely leaves Messi out of his plans, but has taken a gamble for the first league game of the new yea. However, in the three games without the Argentinian this term, against Sporting, Athletic Club at San Mamés and the cup game with Ceuta, the team has managed to win regardless.
Piqué missed six games
The Catalan centre back was given his fifth yellow at Cornellà-El Prat and therefore sits the next game out. But Barça managed without him in both games against Ceuta, and also the game with Vila-real and the drubbings of Real Sociedad and Almeria. The only loss without Piqué was at the Sánchez Pizjuán in the first leg of the Super Cup against Sevilla.
Tenth game without captain
Barça have won every game with Puyol in the team this year, while in games he has missed there has been a mixed bag of results. They lost to Hercules and Sevilla in the Super Cup, and drew with Mallorca and then Athletic Bilbao in the cup, but did win against Racing, Rubin, Ceuta and Sevilla in four different competitions.
Arsenal thrashed without Puyol or Piqué
Since Guardiola has been in command, Barcelona have only played 12 games without either of the main centre backs in the team. The most famous case of the team managing quite nicely without either was against Arsenal last season. With them both suspended, Màrquez and Milito were called in, and Barça walked over the Gunners to the tune of a 4-1 win.