11 March 2012

Racing - FC Barcelona: Santander test for winning streak

6 pm, R@dio Barça, GolT and Canal+ Liga: Barça go for their sixth consecutive away win against Racing. The presence of Puyol is the main news in the Barça squad.

The New Sardinero will be a good test of Barça's current form. The team have put together a run of three league wins plus an imposing ride into the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Five wins in the last five encounters. The battle to maintain this winning streak– Barça are 13 points adrift of Real Madrid after the victory in Seville – will be played out in the New Sardinero, a ground Barça have found very favourable over the past three seasons.

Since Pep Guardiola took charge, Barça have won all of their matches away to Racing: 1-2 (2008/09), 1-4 (2009/10) and 0-3 (2010/11). It's been particularly fertile ground for Leo Messi, who scored five in the three games including Barça's 5000th league goal. The match also comes on the back of Messi's five-goal exhibition against Bayer Leverkusen (7-1), a feat that delighted fans across Europe.

The presence of Carles Puyol in the squad is the main news though the Barça captain has yet to get full clearance from Club doctors. However, Piqué (suspended) plus Thiago, Abidal, Alexis, Villa, Afellay and Fontàs (injury) are all discounted. With so many players missing or doubtful, Guardiola has a limited number of options, especially in defence, and has drafted in Tello, Muniesa, Sergi Roberto, Bartra and Montoya from the reserves.

It's been a difficult week for Racing Santander. The club, which currently sits second from bottom and three points adrift of safety, sacked manager Juanjo Gonzalez and brought in Álvaro Cervera, until then manager of Recreativo. The new man has had very little time to prepare his players and will also have to cope with the absence of goalkeeper Toño (suspended) and forward Acosta (injured). (via FCBarcelona.com)