Saturday, 29 January 2011

Match Preview: Hércules v Barcelona

Unsurprisingly the build up to Barca’s trip to Alicante has been dominated by talk of the last time these teams met. It was the shock, if not the result and performance, of the season. The newly promoted, unheralded Hércules taking the Nou Camp by storm and winning 2-0.

The most surprising element of the game being that it could have been more. This was no means the smash and grab method of getting a result against the champions – the manner in which those few teams who have taken points of Pep Guardiola’s men in recent seasons have found most fruitful. But for Victor Valdes and occasionally erratic finishing the score would have been even more jaw-dropping. So, if Hercules displayed the perfect game plan in combating Barcelona’s tiqui-taca style, can lightning really strike twice?

The smart money wouldn’t be on a repeat. Arguably the performance of the Catalans that day gave more of an insight into how brilliant they have been the rest of the season. It is not always as easy as they make it look and when they are not firing on all cylinders it is possible for mere mortals, or even mythical figures, to overpower them. It would also be fair to mention that over half of the Barca team that day had just arrived back from a 13,000 mile round-trip to Buenos Aires for Argentina’s 4-1 friendly victory over Spain.

Since that fabled day in early September the leaders have not been defeated in the league and are looking for a league record 15th consecutive victory this evening. Dani Alves is likely to return at right-back with Eric Abidal deputising again for injured captain, Carlos Puyol, at cente-back. Sergio Busquets, who signed a new five-year deal in midweek, should also return in place of Javier Mascherano in the holding role. The regular front five of Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro, Villa and Messi all expected to start again after coming through Wednesday’s 5-0 win in the Copa Del Rey semi-final over Almeria unscathed.

The task for Esteban Vigo is much more complicated. Not only does he have to drill his team to deal with that front five that he has been in such sensational form over recent weeks but he must do so without his two first choice central defenders. Mohamed Sarr and Sergio Rodriguez expected to fill in for the injured Abraham Paz and Noe Paramot.

Roston Drenthe is again left out of the squad as the fall-out from his dispute with the club continues but the potent duo of Nelson Valdez and David Trezeguet will start in attack.

Probable Line-Ups:

Hercules (4-2-3-1): Calatayud; Cortes, Sarr, Rodriguez, Pena; Fritzler, Aguilar; Tote, Gomes, Valdez; Trezeguet

Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Maxwell, Abidal, Pique, Alves; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Villa, Messi, Pedro

No comments:

Post a Comment