Barcelona will look to continue their Spanish dominance when they hit the road and take on Real Zaragoza in La Liga this weekend.
The Catalan club have been an all-conquering force this season—netting a staggering 95 goals in just 30 games—and have built a very strong 13-point lead on top of the La Liga table as a result, which they'll no doubt look to build upon with a strong showing in this one.
Zaragoza haven't been as strong in 2013 and, without a win in the domestic league since Christmas, will have a big task ahead of them here.
However, they have been very solid at home this season, with just one defeat in their last five home games. If they can replicate that form here, against a Barcelona side that will surely rest some players given their Champions League appearances, they might just be able to shock the visitors.
Will Barcelona's incredible dominance of La Liga continue this week, or will Zaragoza chalk up one of the more incredible upsets seen this season?
Read on for a full preview of this match, including all the key details, live viewing and TV information, analysis and some last-minute predictions.
Date: Sunday, April 14, 2013
Start time: 1:00 p.m. ET (Eastern time, United States)
Venue: La Romareda, Zaragoza, Spain
Live Stream and TV Information
beIN SPORT and beIN SPORT en Español will both show coverage of this match throughout the United States, whilst Sky Sports 2/HD and Sky Go will do the same in the United Kingdom.
2012-13 La Liga Season so Far
As mentioned before, Zaragoza haven't had the strongest of seasons domestically and currently sit inside the relegation zone as a result of that.
They haven't won a domestic match since Christmas and haven't beaten a team inside the top eight all year. Despite that, Zaragoza have not lost a game at home this season by more than one goal. What's more, their last three home games have seen them hold very strong teams—Valencia, Granada, Real Madrid—all to draws.
That will no doubt give them plenty of confidence for this one, which they'll likely need given the attacking brilliance Barca have displayed this year.
Scoring 95 goals in 30 games, La Blaugrana are the premier attacking team in the competition and will likely find the back of the net in this one, having scored in every single domestic game in this season.
However, Barca's away form does leave some questions, with just one win from their last five road games. And that one only came about thanks to a come-from-behind victory courtesy of Lionel Messi, who will miss this match due to injury.
Perhaps this one might be a lot closer than we're all expecting.
Key Player to Watch: Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona
With Lionel Messi again rested due to his hamstring injury, it seems likely that Cesc Fabregas will take his place at the top of Barca's attack here.
The former Arsenal midfielder netted a hat-trick for La Blaugrana last weekend, filling in for Lionel Messi in the No. 10 role. Despite a frustrating night against Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League, he will likely see another starting berth here.
Fabregas is a midfielder by trade, which means he has a great creative game and passing abilities at the top of Barcelona's attack. He isn't the go-to striker that someone like David Villa or even Alexis Sanchez can be, but he can create and sustain an attack on the night, which will be key for La Blaugrana as they seek to break down Zaragoza's defense.
The 25-year-old has 10 goals and 10 assists for the Catalan side this year and, if he can get going in this one, will be a big attacking weapon on the night.
Biggest Storyline to Follow: What Changes Will La Blaugrana Make?
Following their progression through to the Champions League semifinals during the week and the fact that the La Liga title is all but secured, look for Barcelona to make some big changes here.
We already know that Messi will be rested from the fixture, having not made the squad, but it seems that Tito Vilanova is prepared to rest a number of his other stars as well, with Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba all left out.
Busquets is believed to be suffering discomfort (per Yahoo! Sports), whilst Alba and Iniesta have been left out of the side for "coaching reasons."
Thus, the biggest question is to how these decisions will change Barcelona's setup and tactics for this one. With Iniesta out, Fabregas may play alongside Villa at the top of the attack in the "Messi role" and try to take on some of the work Iniesta normally does in behind. He may also just be played in Iniesta's regular spot, with Villa and Sanchez to play ahead of him.
Eric Abidal (back from injury) could take Alba's place at left-back.
What changes will be made and how they will affect Barca still remain to be seen, but there's little doubting that the away side will be hindered in this one.
They still have a plethora of talent on hand, but with a different setup and a number of their best players missing, they will definitely have a tough time here.
Three Stats to Consider
9. Barcelona have won their last nine encounters against Real Zaragoza.
0. La Blaugrana have not won their last four away fixtures in all competitions (AC Milan, Real Madrid, Celta Vigo, Paris Saint Germain).
8. Barcelona have not kept a clean sheet in their last eight away games domestically, with their last one coming against Sevilla in December 2012.
Champions-elect against relegation battlers might seem like a very straightforward fixture to predict, but the reality is that this one is much closer than it appears on paper.
Barcelona are missing four players who arguably have been their best four players all season and have already shifted attention from La Liga to the Champions League—something we saw Zaragoza catch Real Madrid on in their last home game.
The Catalan side aren't strong away from home at the moment and, against a very gritty Zaragoza defense playing for their survival in La Liga, won't have an easy time here—as shown in the last three draws that Zaragoza have notched up at La Romareda.
Expect the home side to be strong here and Barcelona to go the majority of this one without netting a goal. However, given the combination showed between Sanchez and Fabregas last week and the ability Barcelona have to capitalize on the simplest of mistakes, they may just break down the home side in the final minutes of the game here for a thrilling win.
It won't be at all deserved, but it will be three points for Barcelona and further heartbreak for Zaragoza, who will continue their unwanted winless streak.
Prediction: Real Zaragoza 0, Barcelona 1
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