Saturday, March 25, 2006

Closer

Between Patrick’s weekend and a pulled muscle in my neck blogging about the blaugrana hasn’t been my highest priority of late so before I get onto tonight’s game at La Rosaleda against lowly Malaga, a quick run down on what’s been going on with FCB.

Injuries

Both Rafael Marquez and Edmilson are out for four and six weeks respectively with hamstring injuries sustained in Barça’s 0-2 win away to Sociedad. Henrik Larsson also took a knock in that game and didn’t even make the bench for Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Getafe. With Carles Puyol picking up a yellow card late in Tuesdays game that sees him suspended this evening expect to see a central defense of Motta and Oleguer with an outside chance of Barça B defender Rodri coming in should Riijkaard prefer to keep Oleguer out on the right in favour of Belletti.

Two more wins

After the last two games Barça are closer than ever to a second La Liga title in a row with nine games remaining. Two fairly comfortable wins against rather average opposition coupled with Valencia’s stumbling (a 1-2 loss at Santander and an incredibly fortunate 1-1 draw with Villarreal with Santi Canizaries saving Riquelme’s late penalty) and Real Madrid’s continuing hopelessness (yet another 0-0 draw at home to Betis and a barely deserved 1-1 draw at Saragossa) has left Osasuna as FCBs closest challengers, twelve points back.

Benfica

Tuesday 28th sees Barcelona travel to Lisbon to play Ronald Koeman’s Benfica in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Without the aforementioned Marquez and Edmilson in addition to Leo Messi and the suspended Puyol (yes, for this one too) the Barça defense will have it’s work cut out in dealing with Simao, Geovanni (both ex-blaugrana) and Nuno Gomes. That said I don’t see the Portuguese side keeping Barça out over ninety minutes (see my last post for more on Benfica, who are currently seven points behind FC Porto)

Malaga this evening

It’s top versus bottom at seven o’clock today. Malaga have won just five games all season, their last against Athleti coming almost two months ago. With Fernando “my dad used to be the president of Real Madrid don’t you know” Sanz at the heart of their defense they’ve leaked 48 goals, the second worse in La Liga behind Sociedad and top scorer Salva has netted all of seven times. Malaga are hopeless, lacking quality all over the pitch and anything other than a damn good thrashing at the hands of Barça this evening would be quite a surprise, despite the long list of absentees for the away side: Marquez, Edmilson, Messi (feels like we’ve been here before doesn’t it?), and Ronaldinho (rested). Larsson is back and Maxi Lopez is again in the squad.

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