High expectations for trip to bottom club
Barça travel to La Romereda to take on bottom club Zaragoza at 18.00 tonight for a game that promises plenty of emotion and excitement, with the fans no doubt hoping Leo Messi might just repeat his fantastic hat trick performance from last season.
Barcelona (FCB).- Barça have the chance to go top for a few hours at least as they take on the struggling Zaragoza at the end of a week that’s seen them beat both Valencia and Copenhagen, but Pep has warned them not to take their opponents lightly and to expect a tough game in front of the lively Zaragoza fans.
Barça welcome back Victor Valdes who missed the Copenhagen game with a stomach upset, but Xavi and Milito are both injured and miss the trip, whilst B team youngster Thiago is again in the squad, Guardiola played Mascherano and Sergio in the middle on Wednesday, but he has other options available to him with Keita and Pedro both pushing for a place in the starting line up. Zaragoza will again be without their injured regular keeper Leo Franco, whilst Pinter is suspended and Lacruz is on international duty with the under-19s, but Czech defender Jiri Jarosik returns from suspension.
Zaragoza have yet to win a game this season and with three points from three draws they are sitting rock bottom in the league. Only Malaga have conceded more goals in La Liga so far this year and seven of the twelve they’ve leaked have been at home, whilst Sinama Pongole is their leading scorer with two of the six they’ve managed. However, as Pep Guardiola warned, Zaragoza is a tough place to visit at any time and the team’s heroic 2-2 draw against Sporting in their last home game involved them fighting back from two down with just 10 men and apart from the crazy 3-5 game against Malaga, they have also drawn 0-0 with Hercules –who did beat Barça at the Nou Camp. Barça’s away form has been impeccable this season with impressive wins against Racing, Atletico Madrid and Bilbao, scoring eight goals and conceding just one and after seeing off both the La Liga and Champions League Group leaders this week, they of course start as favourites against the La Liga basement side.
Zaragoza returned to the top flight last season after a year in the second tier, but they are traditionally one of Spain’s big teams, having won the Spanish Cup six times and reached the final on five more occasions, as well as taking the Super Cup, the UEFA Cup and the Cup Winners Cup and have spent a total of 54 seasons in the Spanish top flight. Last year’s game against Barça was described by Pep Guardiola as “one of the toughest of the season” and curiously enough Xavi also missed that game. Messi was also a doubt until the last minute with a tooth abscess, but he did play and put in a fantastic performance, scoring a hat trick and provoking a penalty that Ibra scored to give the team a 2-4 win.
“Barça are better than last season”
There’s no shortage of respect for Barça from the Zaragoza camp with team captain Gabi admitting “we need a win, but we are up against a fantastic team and frankly, a draw would be a good result”, whilst manager Jose Aurelio Gay confessed: “Barca will have most of the possession they are looking even better than last season. Logic dictates that they will win, but football is a sport where logic doesn’t always apply”.