When: 24 January, 2013
Where: La Rosaleda, Malaga
What Time: 22:00 CET, 4:00 PM EST
Barcelona will travel to face off against Malaga in the second leg of Copa del Rey action on Thursday night. After a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou, the tie is wide open.
Malaga has the edge in the tie after securing two goals away last week. That leaves Barcelona with the task of winning at La Rosaleda to advance to the next round.
The entire season has been immaculate for Malaga. The thriving club dominated their group in the Champions League and is competing for a place in Europe in La Liga. Knocking out Barcelona would be a great milestone for their season.
Barcelona has also been outstanding in their season. The Catalans won their group stage and went undefeated through the first half of league play. However, last week was very disappointing for La Blaugrana.
For each club, this game is the most important of the season. There is reason for both clubs to believe that they can advance, but we know only one can.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the upcoming match that promises excitement.
After the horrible week Barcelona suffered, Malaga is aware that the Catalans are weak. This is the perfect opportunity for Malaga to take their opportunity to eliminate the reigning champions.
The home side is all too aware of the situation at Barcelon. Malaga defender Martin Demichelis was quoted by Goal saying, “Barcelona showed that they are not an invincible team.”
The Malaga based outfit will surely look to press early and make things difficult for Barcelona. Malaga already holds the advantage due to their two away goals at Camp Nou, but they know that holding the Catalans is a must.
Expect Malaga to attack from the first whistle and look for a quick goal to see them through. They have already proven that they can stay with Barcelona stride for stride, and it is not crazy to assume that they can advance.
However, the match will most likely ride on the first 30 minutes of the game. If Malaga can score, they will likely eliminate Barcelona. But if the Catalans grab an early goal, the tie may be decided.
Though the tie really is up in the air, fans know that Malaga will look to draw blood from a very wounded Barcelona side.
If advancing did not appear difficult enough for La Blaugrana, the absence of Tito Vilanova will surely make things harder.
The Catalan boss will be missing the match due to the fact that he is receiving cancer treatment in New York and will be gone for approximately 10 days (via Daily Mail).
For Barcelona it means that assistant coach Jordi Roura will be in charge of the squad. Roura has yet to lose while standing in for Vilanova, but the match against Malaga will surely be the biggest game he has overseen.
Fans should expect that Vilanova has already selected the lineup ahead of time, but the changes during the game will come down to the decisions of Jordi Roura.
Normally, the Catalan club could handle itself with Vilanova missing a game. But in a must-win encounter, the absent manager may be felt.
Cules will be hoping that Tito Vilanova overly prepared his squad ahead of time, but the match will most certainly come down to the players themselves.
One of Barcelona’s biggest strengths entering Thursday’s clash is the fact that the club now has the entire first team training together for the first time this season.
Barcelona has struggled with injuries for the majority of the season, but also had to deal with recovering players due to surgeries. But the club can now proudly say that every member of the squad is healthy and training.
David Villa recently received clearance for the clash with Malaga and has been named to the traveling squad. Villa will likely feature as his form continues to improve.
More importantly is that Eric Abidal, Isaac Cuenca and Marc Muniesa have begun training after summer surgeries (via fcbarcelona). Though Abidal is still not match ready, his return to training is a huge story. But winger Isaac Cuenca has received clearance to return to full action.
With a full squad entering the huge Copa del Rey match, Barcelona will have the luxury of starting their best possible lineup. And with this game being so important, fans should expect nothing less than the best Barcelona can offer.
But the healthy squad is important for more than the clash with Malaga. This full team will be vital if Barcelona is to challenge for the treble this season.
However, all eyes will currently be on the game against Malaga. With Barcelona starting a very strong lineup, Malaga will have their hands full for sure.
Malaga’s best chances of advancement are to play the strongest lineup they have. But with their golden boy out injured, things will be difficult in the Malaga midfield.
AS recently reported that that Spaniard has injured his right ankle and has not even been able to practice. With Malaga’s best player set to miss the clash, the outcome could already be decided.
Isco has been a revelation for the Malaga based club. Not only is his potential being realized, but he is a big game performer. The 20-year-old has been a giant killer already by taking down the likes of Real Madrid this season.
The home side will be hard pressed to find a suitable replacement in their squad for the massive encounter. But the toughest part may be that Isco will not be the only player missing the match.
In the same news breaking report, AS also stated that Jeremy Toulalan has been left out of the squad, while Nacho Monreal will miss due to suspension.
Clearly things will be difficult for Malaga. Expect Barcelona to take advantage of the weakened Malaga squad, but do not expect Los Boquerones to go down so easily.
Barcelona has enjoyed immense success to start the season, but the club is fully aware that success will be more difficult to achieve in the second half of the season. For Barcelona, beating Malaga is a must.
Ahead of the Copa del Rey clash, assistant coach Jordi Roura had these words to say thanks to AS.
This is the first must-win game of the season for us this year and we will be well aware of that when we travel there. We all know how important this clash is and we'll play with the intensity that a game of this occasion deserves.
It is apparent that La Blaugrana will enter the clash with the right mindset. The Catalans understand this game decides their future in the competition, but it is also very important for the season as a whole.
After such a terrible week for Barcelona, the match against Malaga will be their chance to right the ship. When trials come, a club can either sink or rise above the challenges, and this match will prove which one Barcelona will do.
In a recent article, I claimed that now is the time for Tito Vilanova to show his capability. But now is also the time for Barcelona to show if they are the real deal or not.
Viewers should absolutely expect a dominance performance by La Blaugrana as the club must get back to the dominate form they have shown this season.
Despite the outcome of this match, it is guaranteed to be one of the most entertaining encounters of the season. Both clubs need this win and will fight until the very end.
Although Malaga has the advantage entering the clash, it should be expected that Barcelona will pull off the victory and advance to meet Real Madrid in the next round.
If Malaga were at full strength, the game would simple be a toss-up at this point. But with key players missing for Malaga while facing a full-strength Barcelona, the likelihood of advancing is very low.
I predict a final score of 2-0 in favor of Barcelona.
The Catalans will attack very well and will likely see Messi score at least one goal. But it will be the defense who will decide the match. Malaga is missing their best player and the attacking game will absolutely suffer.
Though a score of 2-0 looks great, the final line will not do justice to the play that will take place. Malaga will be outstanding as always, but will lose to simply being overpowered by a very strong Barcelona team.
Barcelona will go on to advance to likely play Real Madrid in the next round. But for Malaga, the season is far from over. Manuel Pellegrini’s men have a long road ahead of them in both the Champions League and La Liga.
Predicting the Barcelona Lineup:
Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Jordi Alba
Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta
Pedro, Lionel Messi, David Villa.
With Cesc Fábregas having played many games lately, he will likely not start. Barcelona will need a stronger attacking dimension to their play and David Villa will offer just that. However, the rest of the lineup should be pretty standard for the Catalans.
How big of a game is this for both clubs? Who will advance to the next round and why? Don’t forget to leave your thoughts and comments below.
Check out my latest articles here.