Barça heads into the penultimate home game for the season against Castile and León side Real Valladolid but, for the home press, all focus appears to be on the after-match celebrations in which the Liga Trophy will be presented to the team by RFEF President Ángel María Villar.
Just who will lift the trophy remains to be seen. Mutterings abound that should Puyol raise it above his head, factions of the crowd will whistle their disapproval of his decision to have his operation just before the critical CL games. Not sure what else he could have done if the guy was in too much “discomfort” to play.
Another option would be Víctor Valdés, playing his last season for his team, yet again the murmurings are that he too could be whistled for opting to leave the team. How inane and unappreciative that would be.
Xavi Hernández or Andrés Iniesta would be safe bets as 2nd and 3rd captains; maybe Messi?
Another could be Éric Abidal – maybe particularly poignant, given his return from a liver transplant only to receive an offer from the club that doesn’t include playing time, as he wants. This could see him leaving the club for the next year or so, before perhaps returning to take up an administrative/ambassadorial role.
My favourite pick would be El Mister – Tito Vilanova – flanked by Jordi Roura, Aureli Altimira and Jose Ramón de la Fuente.
We shall see who gets the honour, after the game.
The after-match festivities will be livestreamed on the club’s website, via Barça TV.
Oh yeah – the game.
Bit of a non-event, really, apart from the fact that Tito and the team are seemingly chasing the 100 points tally and wanting to score as many goals as possible. In his latest press conference, Vilanova said, “We owe it to our fans, we have to finish strong.”
The visitors currently sit mid-table-ish in the equivalent of No Man’s Land: safe from relegation but not close enough to compete for a Europe spot.
Like Tito, Valladolid’s Coach, Miroslav Đukić, also wants his team to finish strongly, “to prove that they can compete with everyone.”
Missing will be 2 key players: Serbian Antonio Rukavina is suspended after accumulating 5 Yellow cards, and Patrick Ebert, who has the flu, misses playing Barcelona for the second time this season. In December he missed the game due to injury.
Valladolid’s travelling squad is: Jaime, Dani Hernández, Valiente, Sereno, Rueda, Peña, Balenziaga, Sastre, Álvaro Rubio, Baraja, Víctor Pérez, Rama, Larsson, Bueno, Óscar, Omar, Manucho y Guerra.
The team’s last Away Win came in February with a 1-2 result vs. Rayo Vallecano. They’ve lost 3 and drawn 2 on the road since then.
Their game against Real Madrid a couple of weeks ago was a tight affair which they lost 4-3, so the team has plenty of goals in them.
Good news in the camp is that Valdés and Mascherano received medical green-for-go lights and are eligible for selection. Only Puyol and Messi remain on the casualty list.
If Tito doesn’t field some of the lesser-played team members for this game, I fear that Twitter will explode an hour before the game when the team is announced.
The game kicks off at 21:00 CET on Sunday 19th May
Click here to convert the match time to your timezone: FC Barcelona vs. Real Valladolid