Who: Malaysia XI vs. FC Barcelona
When: Time Varies by Location
Barcelona is set to wrap up their summer tour with one final match being played at the weekend. La Blaugrana will take on a select Malaysian starting XI, which will mark the club’s first time playing in the country.
The Catalan club is coming off of a 7-1 victory over Thailand and will look to continue its winning ways while also bringing joy to the fans that are exciting to see the club in their country.
Due to the match taking place in Asia, the kickoff time will make the match rather difficult to watch for some fans but those able to take it in will be in for a treat.
For those who are able to watch the match, expect excitement. With this being the last outing until the new season kicks off next weekend, Tata Martino is sure to put his best players on the field to get match fitness.
In the end this match is a friendly that is meant to bring joy, commerce and a great relationship with Malaysia. But it is still La Blaugrana’s last chance to work out any issues before the real games begin.
Not much is going on in the Blaugrana squad ahead of this friendly, but there is one player who will peg this match as more important than anyone else.
Spanish paper Marca has reported that Cristian Tello has returned to training after suffering a pulled hamstring. After the Catalan winger missed the last two preseason matches, he will see the contest with Malaysia as his last chance to earn his spot in the starting lineup.
Another winger will also be competing with Tello but may have the upper hand. In the club’s last friendly, Pedro was able to score a hat-trick and will be looking to seal his role for the club against Malaysia.
In an interview following his hat-trick, and reported on the club’s official website, Pedro stated that he wants to continue playing the way he has in preseason while also discussing why he left the pitch early against Thailand.
Each player wants to give 100% for the team and I want to continue performing like I did tonight. Scoring goals always helps me maintain confidence. We all performed well and got what we wanted. We will try to be on the best form possible at the start of the league. I noticed a sharp pain in my calf muscle; I hope it isn’t anything serious. But it’s pretty painful.
According to reports on the club’s official website, Pedro has not yet been ruled out of action for Saturday’s clash, but there is a good possibility that the Spaniard will not feature.
Despite wingers fighting for a starting spot at Barcelona, there are two forwards whose places are already guaranteed.
Lionel Messi and Neymar finally played alongside each other against Thailand, and manager Tata Martino was quick to praise them. The Blaugrana boss spoke to reporters from Goal.com after the match, saying:
Messi and Neymar combined well and played in different areas of the pitch. The connection between Neymar and Leo was the most interesting thing about the game and they played as well as we expected. They combined well and scored goals, but they also combined with other players, which is what you expect at this level.
Fans should expect Barcelona to start the match with a lineup similar to what the club will feature at the kickoff of the La Liga season. The regular starting lineup needs to play together and get comfortable with the new La Liga season only a week away.
Victor Valdes will likely start in goal as the club’s top keeper, but the defense will be harder to guess.
Dani Alves and Jordi Alba will likely both start. Martino has yet to play the two together, but he will need to do so to see how and when they make forward runs affects his setup. Gerard Pique will likely start as well with Marc Bartra his partner in defense.
Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta should get their first starts of the preseason to work on match fitness. Many would expect Xavi to start as well, but Martino may elect to give Cesc Fabregas the nod in order to give Xavi a rest ahead of the new campaign.
There is no questioning that Messi and Neymar will start the game up front. The only issue is pegging who will form the third point of the trident.
With Pedro likely out of the match and Tello just having returned to training, expect Alexis Sanchez to take his opportunity to try to earn his place in the starting lineup.
Here is a look at the projected starting lineup: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Bartra, Alba; Busquets, Iniesta, Fabregas; Neymar, Messi, Sanchez.
In the end, everyone expects Barcelona to win this game with ease. I predict a 6-0 scoreline with both Messi and Neymar assisting each other. But the real important takeaway from the match will be a clean sheet.
How do you see the match playing out? Who will be in the starting lineup? Can Tello earn a starting spot? Leave your thoughts and comments below!
Tre' Atkinson. Follow me on Twitter for more discussions on Barcelona and all Spanish football.