Los Manos are at the foot of the table and the last thing they needed was a visit from the champions...
Winless and bottom of the table, to say it’s been a tough start to the campaign for Zaragoza would be something of an understatement. Coach Jose Aurelio Gay is under scrutiny, so the visit of reigning champions Barcelona is not a fixture that will fill him with a great deal of enthusiasm.
Last weekend, los Manos suffered their fourth defeat of the campaign to date, going down 2-1 against Athletic Bilbao in the Basque Lands. Though the final score reflects a competitive performance from the visitors, they were largely poor throughout and only scored their consolation goal four minutes into stoppage time.
The problems don’t seem to have stopped on the competitive field of play as reports suggest that there has been some unrest on the club’s training ground this week. Hard-nosed Italian centre-back Matteo Contini was reportedly sent away from the main body of players after failing to show the correct attitude towards head coach Gay.
Schisms in the squad are the last thing an already toiling side needs, particularly ahead of such a big fixture. If they are to somehow pull a shock result out of the bag, the home players and staff must all be pulling in the same direction.
Not At Their Best
Primera Division champions Barcelona have yet to really look themselves this season, having scored a relatively paltry 12 goals from seven fixtures. Though for most mortal sides this would be a good return, the standards that la Blaugrana have set for themselves mean that this is a relatively low figure. More surprising, however, is the fact that Barca have already spilled four points.
Danger signs flashed last weekend, when Pep Guardiola’s unit met with then league leaders Valencia. For 45 minutes the Camp Nou was stunned as the guests played the better football and earned a deserved lead, but after the interval the home team finally roared into action, striking through Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol.
Iniesta was also to the fore as Barca met with Copenhagen in midweek. Dictating play from the centre of the field, he helped to orchestrate a 2-0 victory in which Lionel Messi hogged the spotlight thanks to his brace.
When forced to break intensely defensive sides down this term, la Blaugrana have toiled to find their slickest football, which explains poor results at home against Hercules and Mallorca, so playing on the road has actually suited them. Teams taking a slightly more offensive stance have been picked off, and the pattern should continue on Saturday.
Jiri Jarosik returns after a one-match suspensions, though Pinter misses out because of a similar ban. Matteo Contini’s spot in the first team is a little under question after his training ground spat with the coach.
Leo France, Victor Laguardia and Ikechukwu Uche are all still out with injury problems.
Victor Valdes missed out in midweek because of a virus, and he missed training again on Thursday, despite reports stating that he was feeling a little better. Gabriel Milito has a muscular injury and won’t feature, while Xavi, who managed on 20 minutes against Copenhagen, will be rested.