FC Barcelona go into their 400th match in a UEFA competition facing the brilliant news that Pique and Puyol are likely to start together for the first time since the 2-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu in last seasons Champions League semi-final first leg. Check out champions league betting odds for this match.
Pique made his return last Saturday vs Atletico when he came on in the 54th minute. Puyol, however, was rested after having started two games in a row. This caused coach Pep Guardiola to rotate his back line and try new options. In the meantime, Javier Mascherano has shown to be a more than solid option to fit the “destroyer” role that Puyol does so well. In addition, Eric Abidal gained the manager’s trust in a position that he regularly was deployed in during the early stages of his career.
Pep Guardiola has again showed Cules why he is the ideal manager for FC Barcelona by selecting B-team players Jonathan Dos Santos and Isaac Cuenca for Wednesday’s Champions League clash versus Belarusian minnows BATE Borisov. The young Mexican midfielder, who is playing a key role for the reserve side under Eusubio Sacristán, is unlikely to play minutes alongside his Catalan teammate Cuenca. However, this does not take away the valuable experience that Guardiola is gifting the pair with a far, far away trip to eastern Europe.
Any Barcelona fan would reckon that the away side is going to mop the floor with BATE, but Guardiola knows better. After an initial home draw in the Champions League vs Milan, there is no doubt in my mind that Pep will go all out for the three points in this game.
Expect to see the Catalan coach’s preferred back four for this match. The combination of Alves, Pique, Puyol and Abidal guarantees solidness at the back, pace, experience and good vertical passing. However, in a Champions League match, nothing is guaranteed, as Barça has learned in the recent season’s group stage with slip-ups against sides with virtually no history in Europe such as Rubin Kazan and Copenhagen.
In the midfield, due to Thiago’s lack of UCL experience, it seems as though Guardiola may drop him. It is more than expected that Sergio will play in front of the back four, with Xavi and Fabregas, who recently signed a new boot sponsorship deal with Puma, attempting to control the match. This will be one of the few matches since joining Barça that Cesc does not play as a forward.
Up top, Pep won’t surprise anybody as he will start the on form David Villa, who has the rare talent of always scoring when he gets doubted the most, the future Ballon D’Or 2011 Lionel Messi and the energetic Pedro Rodriguez.
Despite all this, many followers of Barca would not rule out the possibility of Guardiola playing with his renovated 3-4-3 formation, even though it is a Champions League match. Pep has shown to be brave by playing with this ultra-attackingly minded formation. They can beat any side in this campaign’s edition of the most important European club competition when they play like this, but they can also lose to any side.It is risky, especially against top sides.
BATE Borizov, on the other hand, rely on midfielder Renan Bressan to play down the middle, get assists with his Brazilian flair and score, as he has 18 goals in 39 games for the 2010 champions of Belarus.
FC Barcelona projected lineup:
Valdes; Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal; Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas; Pedro, Messi, Villa.
Article written by Barcaloco contributor Keenan Manresa. Follow Keenan on Twitter at @knnza.