22 January 2012

Malaga v FC Barcelona: A threat between clásicos

18.00, GolT, C+ Liga and Radio Barça - On Sunday evening, FC Barcelona visit eighth placed Malaga, one of the most ambitious outfits in La Liga. Pedro is back in the side.


In between the cup games against Real Madrid, Barça have another big test in store at La Rosaleda. They will have two particular things in mind. First, to maintain the excellent form they showed in the 2-1 win on Wednesday night at the Santiago Bernabéu, and second, to get their away form back on track in the league, where they have only won three of the fixtures away from Camp Nou so far. But La Rosaleda is never an easy place to go, especially with Malaga currently eighth and aiming for even bigger things.

The last game of the first half of the season is really the first, because this is the match that was originally cancelled due to the players strike. And for it, Josep Guardiola will be glad to have one of his strikers back, namely Pedro Rodríguez. The Canary Islander was injured in the cup game in Pamplona and with Afellay, Villa and Fontàs all injured, and Keita away in Africa, his return is especially welcome. Even so, there are currently only 16 first team players available, and Guardiola has drawn on Barça B's Cuenca, Dos Santos and Sergi Roberto to bolster his travelling party to 19, one of whom will have to be dropped to make up the definitive list of 18.

Barça have been uncharacteristically irregular in away league matches this season. The 11 points they have dropped on the road explain the current five-point deficit with regard to Liga leaders Madrid. Guardiola made it clear on Saturday that they cannot afford any more setbacks away from home if they want to maintain their hopes of winning the title. Three points in Malaga would work wonders for the team's confidence, with another away trip, this time to Villarreal, coming up a week late.

However, Malaga won't be giving up those three points lightly. Manuel Pellegrini's side was one of the biggest spenders over the summer, but despite a promising start, they have gone without a win since November. Two draws at home and three defeats away are a poor return for a team that has European aspirations. That's not for want of big names in the squad. Malaga has players of the calibre of Van Nistelrooy, Cazorla, Rondón and Mathijsen, while they have also just signed goalkeeper Kameni from Espanyol, who may well make his debut on Sunday. All in all, it's some challenge for Barcelona, and victory is anything but a foregone conclusion. (via FCBarcelona.cat)