Hello there guys, we are hours away from the game against Las Palmas and there’s only one thing I’d say about this game.. “Just go get the 3 points and come back”. That is all that I’d want for today given that we have the La Liga title decider game coming up against Atletico Madrid on Sunday. I don’t care if its 0-1, 1-2, 2-3 but all I would want us to do is to maintain the gap with Atletico and head into Sunday on a comfortable note.
Now the problem here is that it is not as simple as it sounds. Las Palmas or in other words, the Canary Islands is located roughly around 2,000 kilometres away from Barcelona. I don’t contest the fact that we are a team who have enough quality to manage any set of tough fixtures given but this long trip 72 hours before a crucial top of the table clash against Atletico is the issue here. This means that we won’t have any day off before Sunday as in general, professional football teams have a recovery training session the day after a game. So we would be training tomorrow (Friday) after we travel back to Barcelona in a small recovery session. Since we have a game on Sunday, it means we will train on Saturday as well.
All of these factors point towards only one direction and that is to rotate our playing eleven as much as we can for today’s game and still be good enough to grab the 3 points. Now the question is what does it depend on? We have almost all players available except Jordi Alba, Denis Suarez & Yerry Mina. This means we have enough options to rotate our midfield and back four. Luis Suarez should definitely not be part of today not only because of the weekend game but also because he is on 4 yellows. Its not worth risking him for the 5th yellow and missing him for the weekend.
The other players who’d start today’s game depends a lot on Valverde’s plan for the weekend. We have fully fit players in Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Andres Iniesta, Ousmane Dembele & Philippe Coutinho. What combination of these 5 players would feature against Atletico will pretty much decide who we select today. For example, if Iniesta is going to be starting this weekend then there’s no point in starting him in today’s game given how his physical abilities are limited. So we need to keep that in mind before selecting the 11 players today.
In my opinion, this can be the starting 11 today:
There are plenty of reasons why I have gone with this set of players for today’s game. Firstly, Pique shouldn’t play today despite being named in the squad. He really seems to be struggling with his knee. He was almost injured badly in the 6-1 win against Girona. While we are entering the most crucial part of the season, we cannot afford to risk him. Hence, I would go for Umtiti-Vermaelen at the heart of defence. We have also lost Nelson Semedo to injury and we have no RB other than Roberto as of now. I am not confident enough of Aleix Vidal in the back four, hence I’d go for Roberto. May be we can substitute him off later on if we are in control of the game and push Vidal back. Jordi Alba’s suspension means that Lucas Digne is an automatic selection.
I have chosen to go with Coutinho, Busquets, Vidal & either of Paulinho/ Gomes. Personally, I would be really tempted to start Coutinho for the weekend against Atletico and I think it can be his first big test. However, I am not too comfortable with the idea of Coutinho & Iniesta playing together in the same eleven. And this means that, starting Coutinho against Atletico would mean Iniesta not starting against Atletico. I don’t think its worth a gamble as of yet. So it is better to go with Coutinho today and Iniesta in his position for the weekend. It is best we give chances to Vidal, Gomes/ Paulinho today as that’s the whole point behind their purchase. We have got them to step in when we have to rest the big guns and today is probably the best chance to give them a run. I wouldn’t mind either of Paulinho or Gomes in midfield today but I wouldn’t want Paulinho to start against Atletico for sure. This selection would rest Iniesta & Rakitic for us and in truth, I wouldn’t mind Rakitic starting in place of Busquets as well. Busi has been playing quite a lot of games of late and it’ll be good if he rests this one too.
What would be ideal is for Rakitic & Busquets to play one half each at the DM role so that both don’t get too tired nor are both of them too rusty when they play in the weekend. I am going for Vidal on the right flank today because we need to rest Dembele for the weekend. Yes, I mean it… I would want to start Dembele for the game against Atletico. You might think its a bit too early but in all honesty, we are going to have more from him as compared to how much Paulinho could give. We will surely start Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta against Atletico and the option for the 4th midfielder is open for Coutinho, Dembele and Paulinho. I would pick Dembele out of the 3 options simply because Coutinho isn’t comfortable playing on the right while Paulinho is just horribly out of form. So its more like we dont have much of a choice as well.
Paco Alcacer will replace Suarez to avoid the Uruguayan getting his 5th yellow, as mentioned earlier. The other spot… Lionel Messi, period. There is nothing more to say other than his name. But it would be great if we can bring him off after gaining some control on the game say by around 50-60 minutes.
Whatever the case, it is extremely important for us to grab the 3 points as we cannot afford to give confidence to Atletico before facing them in the weekend. Any drop of points today would make Atletico come all guns blazing at the Camp Nou and that’s not what we would want at this stage of the season. Las Palmas have been in very mediocre form coming into this game but they haven’t been poor at home. They have managed to upset Valencia 3 weeks ago and this means if its their day anything could happen. So its best we are on our toes and go fight for the win.
Visca el Barca ❤ Let’s hope for the best, Cules!