Barcelona minds on Real, summon Euro reserves
With top place secured in Champions League Group H, it'll be an unfamiliar looking Barcelona which faces BATE Borisov tomorrow as the team's superstars are rested ahead of the weekend's El Clasico against Real Madrid.sports Updated: Dec 05, 2011 09:13 IST
With top place secured in Champions League Group H, it'll be an unfamiliar looking Barcelona which faces BATE Borisov on Tuesday as the team's superstars are rested ahead of the weekend's El Clasico against Real Madrid.
The hard work has already been done by coach Pep Guardiola's players with the 3-2 victory in their last match at AC Milan putting them five points clear on 13 points and assured of a place in the last 16.
BATE will savour the opportunity of playing in the Nou Camp against Guardiola's defending champions, and they still have an outside chance of qualifying for the Europa League by finishing third even though they sit two points adrift of Viktoria Plzen.
Their biggest hope is that they can take advantage of facing a second-string Barca side.
Guardiola has decided to rest 13 players against BATE which includes the backbone of the side such as Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.
The coach is using the week to fine-tune his team for the crunch game with Real where Barcelona have the chance to draw level with their arch-rivals even though Real will still have a game in hand.
At the weekend Barca maintained their indomitable home form which has now seen them score 39 goals without conceding, with a commanding 5-0 victory over Levante.
In recent weeks Guardiola has experimented with a three-man defence and there is now a debate whether he will continue with this formation in Madrid.
Gerard Pique has been named in the squad to face BATE which suggests he could be on the bench against Real.
"After three years at the helm the only thing I ask is that people believe in this team and value it because the players have a lot of merit," said Guardiola.
"We are still preparing ourselves for the game in Madrid. I need to watch more of their games and then we will decide how to play.
"It would be a risk to go and play three at the back but the truth is that I have not decided yet. To play with three is good if we are dominating but if not then we leave ourselves open and to dominate Madrid for much of the game at the Bernabeu is an almost impossible job."
While Pique's importance in Guardiola's plans may have diminished, Javier Mascherano's has definitely grown and he has converted from a reserve midfield option to a valued defensive choice.
"I am not surprised that Barcelona are playing so well at home as we have all been working hard. Whether we play with three or four at the back it doesn't matter as the key is the effort of the group," said Mascherano.
"There is still a game to be played before we face Madrid and we have to give the opposition respect as it is a match in the Champions League but we are all looking forward to the game at the Bernabeu as it will be special."
First Published: Dec 05, 2011 09:10 IST