The last game for the season and the chance to equal 3 records: 100 points, 32 wins in one season and 18 home wins in one season.
It’s fitting that we face Málaga in the finale. Outside of La Roseleda and El Madrigal, I can’t think of another stadium that better respects Manuel Pellegrini. I hope that his chant of “Manuel, Manuel, Manuel Pellegrini” is heard loud and clear tonight, as the charismatic manager leads Los Boquerones for the last time before supposedly heading for Man City.
Málaga will be serious about this game for 3 reasons:
1. To give Pellegrini a deserved send-off.
2. To secure 6th place for a spot in the Europa League – if they’re allowed to play.
3. To beat the La Liga winners.
Due to injury, the team is without Duda, Iturra, Demichelis and Kameni, but they will still be a strong force with the following squad:
Caballero, Pol, Gámez, Weligton, Sergio Sánchez, Eliseu, Onyewu, Lugano, Antunes, Toulalan, Camacho, Pedro Morales, Joaquin, Portillo, Isco, Baptista, Seba, Saviola and Roque Santa Cruz.
What a week it’s been for Barça.
It started with Neymar Jr. finally being confirmed as a Blaugrana player for next season after negotiations that could form the plot of a daytime soap opera. Apparently even Pepe Costa got into the action, seemingly promoted from being a member of the team’s Technical Staff, as well as Messi’s minder.
Next up was Marc Muniesa in an interview in which he managed to stay completely classy despite the club not talking to him about his expiring contract, only to be suddenly told that it wasn’t being renewed. Muniesa has undergone medical tests for Real Sociedad, and I hope that he gets the green light to join them, as they’ll at least be seeing Europa League action next season.
Things took a wonkier turn on Thursday when the bad news was confirmed – the club was not activating the 2 year renewal clause in Abidal’s existing contract, nor were they prepared to offer him a new playing deal. Instead, they threw him the bone of Technical Director of FC Barcelona’s worldwide Escola operations. However, Abidal wants more playing time so off he must go.
His presser was one of the saddest that I have seen, and I’m not ashamed to say that my tears flowed. My in-laws thought that their daughter-in-law had finally lost her marbles. Incredibly touching at the end when Abi hugged each of the players & team staff members. Not a dry eye in the room after that – well, except for Rosell’s & Zubi’s perhaps.
VV was next – springing a surprise that he was prepared to stay until 2014, but was open to doing whatever is best for both him and the club. In other words, he’s thrown it back into the club’s hands to either sell him this season, or let him leave for free now, or let him stay and leave for free at the end of 2014.
Tellingly, just hours before VV’s presser, Monaco was saying that they weren’t interested in signing VV and that they were happy with their present GK.
Is this all part of the game? VV staying may put the kibosh on the plans for the GK position for next season. On the other hand, Tito seemed to welcome the news that VV would stay, although he couldn’t really say anything but that.
All I know is that, if he was thinking of staying, VV must have recently decided this, otherwise why would he have held a farewell lunch for 50 players and staff last week?
Next up to the microphone was Carles Puyol. After what seemed an age of describing his injury, pain, operation decision, and long recovery (leading those who were listening to believing that he too was leaving), he finally said that he was committed to next season and will see how his pre-season will go. However, he also said that if the injury recurred, that he would be hanging up his boots.
Don’t be surprised if Puyol’s presser was a precursor of things to come. I will be awfully sad, but won’t be shocked if he does announce his retirement should his recovery not go to plan, or that he returns only to find that he is slower than the game demands.
As if it isn’t bad enough during transfer silly season, rumours abound over Thiago’s contract clause which demands that he play so many games, otherwise his buy-out clause reduces to 18 million.
Twitter went beserk with comments about the club selling him.
For the record: the buyout clause was put into Thiago’s contract at his party’s insistence. (That the club was stupid enough to agree to it is another story.) The club will not be selling Thiago because this clause has not been met. It is up to Thiago and his management to activate the clause. Only Thiago can decide if he wants to leave.
We’re in Germany, due to return to Barcelona tomorrow, but word from our neighbours and friends in Catalunya is that the local club fans are underwhelmed at Neymar’s signing, and incensed at Abidal’s departure and his treatment by the club.
We could see protest banners once again being confiscated at Camp Nou tonight.
All going to plan, we intend to go to Neymar’s presentation on Monday night, just to gauge the feeling there, although I suspect that most of the ambivalent fans will stay away.
Anyway, back to tonight’s game.
Jeffren visited yesterday, and once again Twitter echoed with jokes about not letting him near Adriano, lest the latter get injured.
Well, whaddya know? Adriano is out of tonight’s match – not with an injury – but due to a stomach virus.
Puyol and Messi are also sidelined, with the latter about to be cleared to play for Argentina. He and Juanjo Brau were due to leave today, but may have delayed their departure to attend Abidal’s farewell.
Dani Alves is already with the Brazil squad.
Alexis was involved in a motor accident on the way home from the Copa Catalunya match on Wednesday night, but was unharmed and available to play.
I would expect something like this:
Montoya – Pique – Masch/Bartra – Alba/Abidal
Thiago – Busi – Iniesta
Alexis/Pedro – Cesc – Villa
After tonight’s game, there will be an official farewell for Abidal. He and his daughters will walk through a pasillo of 22 kids, out to the middle of the pitch where the players will be wearing special shirts. A video will be shown, speeches made and then Puyol will be presenting Abi with a commemorative shirt. Abidal will then leave the pitch through the team’s guard of honour.
Tonight we may be seeing the last of several players in Blaugrana shirts. Certainly Abidal is going, but there’s a fair chance that VV could go this summer, and Villa could be off to EPL. I have a hunch that they won’t be the only players to leave.
The game kicks off at 19:00 CET on Saturday 1st June.
Click here to convert the match time to your timezone: FC Barcelona vs. Malaga CF