Big test for the FC Barcelona at Vila-real’s El Madrigal
Vila-real vs FC Barcelona is a crucial game for the Catalan club. Barça go to Vila-real with important absentees as they chase three more points to keep Spanish League leaders Real Madrid in their sights.
Barcelona (FCB).- FC Barcelona go to Vila-real for the last game in January, and they won’t want to drop any points if they want to stay in the hunt for their fourth consecutive Spanish League title. They travel south with their morale high after putting Real Madrid out of the Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup) on Wednesday, which means they are still challenging to win all three major trophies this season (the Champions League, the Spanish League, and the Cup).
But it is never easy to get three points at El Madrigal, and FC Barcelona Manager, Pep Guardiola, has only 13 first team players available. Alexis and Iniesta both went down with injuries midweek, injured during the game against Real Madrid. Furthermore, Pedro is a last minute absence. The 3 players join Villa, Afellay and Fontàs on the sidelines, not forgetting that Seydou Keita is also away, due to his participation in the African Nations Cup.
Young guns ready to fire
It’s hardly the situation Guardiola would have wanted at such a crucial time of the season, but rather than lament the circumstances, players like Cesc Fàbregas said on Wednesday that “if we have to play for 90 minutes in five games in a row, we’ll do it, and if we have to play with ten men, we’ll do that too. It won’t change anything. We are who we are and we just have to keep pushing forwards. What’s more, we have a great reserve team”. Indeed, the Barça B youngsters are the best winter signing FC Barcelona could have wished for, and against Vila-real, Isaac Cuenca, Jonathan dos Santos, Sergi Roberto and Tello have all been named in the squad.
Dangers of Vila-real
Barça have to take special care over this trip to Vila-real. The side from Castellón have always made things difficult for the Catalans, even though this is anything but the best season they have ever had in the first division. They have been managed since the New Year by José Franciso Molina, who replaced Juan Carlos Garrido, and last Monday finally made it out of the relegation zone thanks to a win against fellow strugglers Sporting Gijón. The ‘yellow submarine’ will be keen for another victory, but they know it won’t be easy against the European champions. Their manager said this week that “it is impossible to beat FC Barcelona without playing a brilliant match”. He has named a provisional squad of 19, because goalkeeper Diego López has gone down with a fever and may not be able to play.