FC Barcelona Fixtures 2011/12: 10 Key Games for Pep Guardiola Next Season

Andres Ehrli@@ehrliCorrespondent IIIJuly 19, 2011

FC Barcelona Fixtures 2011/12: 10 Key Games for Pep Guardiola Next Season

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    Barcelona will have a difficult time in 2011/12 if they want to match last season's success. In order to repeat their La Liga and Champions League wins, they'll have to come out strong and defeat their rivals once again.

    This said, the Blaugrana already have their League and Club World Cup match-ups scheduled, so even at this point in the season, Pep Guardiola must be preparing for some of the games he will face.

    And there will be some "random" things about the schedule he just won't be very happy about. 

    Want to know which games might be the the early favorites to play a key part in whether Barcelona is successful in 2011/12?

    Start the slideshow and find out!

10. La Liga Week 5 at Valencia: September 21

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    Last season's results against Valencia: 0-1 away and 2-1 home


    It's a key game because:

    Even though they've lost Joaquín, Valencia have gotten stronger this season, adding Adil Rami to their defence, Diego Alves as a goalkeeper and Pablo Piatti as a left winger. And rumors are they are considering one more player to round-out their squad. 

    Add that to the fact that Valencia has always had Barça's number, and you start to understand why it's not he best idea to face them at home so early in the season. 

    Last season, Barcelona had a tough time both at home and away, beating Unai Emery's men by one goal on both affairs. So expect a tough clash for the Blaugrana come September 21. 


    Might get worse if: 

    Valencia adds another man and further bolsters their squad.

    Madrid start their season on a streak. 

    Barça have injuries early on. 


    Early prediction: Valencia 1-2 Barcelona 

9. UEFA Supercup vs Porto: August 26

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    It's a key game because:

    Barça will be playing for a title in a single game matchup against one of the best squads in the world, even if they don't have Andre Villas-Boas with them. 

    Porto seem to want to keep their men, so expect to see Hulk, Falcao, Guarín and company wanting to add another title to their already magnificent 2010/11 season. 


    Might get worse if: 

    Vitor Pereira keeps what Villas-Boas did before him.

    Porto keeps all their men. 

    Barça gives priority to the league. 

    Early prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Porto

8. La Liga Week 2 vs Villarreal: August 28

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    Last season's results against Villarreal: 3-1 home and 0-1 away


    It's a key game because:

    Barcelona will look to start the season on a fast-track points wise. That's all good and peachy untill you realize their Week 2 rival is Villarreal, also known as the only team that competed with Barça face-to-face and tried to take the ball away from them. They had some success, particularly in El Madrigal, where they only lost by one goal. 

    Juan Carlos Garrido was also bold in Camp Nou, and even though he lost 3-1, the score wasn't as lopsided as it seems. 

    Add all of this to the fact this game is only two days after the Supercup vs Porto, and you can really start to worry. 

    At least it's a home game...


    Might get worse if: 

    UEFA Supercup goes into extra time.

    Villarreal and Garrido find a way to take the ball away from the Barça midfield. 

    Giuseppe Rossi and Borja Valero stay in Villarreal. 

    Villarreal find the lead early.

    Early prediction: Barcelona 2-3 Villarreal

7. La Liga Opening Match at Málaga: August 21

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    Last season's results against Málaga: 1-3 away and 4-1 home


    It's a key game because:

    Barça will try to start the season off with a win. It'll be easy to do that against lowly Málaga, right?


    Málaga has money now, and with money comes great players. 

    So far they've added River's Diego Buonanotte, Valencia's Joaquín and youth talent Isco, Lyon's Jeremy Toulalan,  Sevilla's Sergio Sánchez, Osasuna's Nacho Monreal and Hamburg's Joris Mathijsen and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

    When you add those players to Julio Baptista, Martín Demichelis, Apoño and Duda, you really have a squad even Barcelona won't like to face.

    Even less on the season's first fixture, when even though you expect them to take time to know each other, they might surprise you. 


    Might get worse if: 

    Málaga gets Wesley Snejder, Diego Ribas, Javier Pastore or Carlos Tévez.

    Barcelona have preseason injuries.

    Madrid plays first against Athletic and wins.

    Early prediction: Málaga 1-3 Barcelona 

6. La Liga Week 18 at Espanyol: January 8

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    Last season's results against Espanyol: 1-5 away and 2-0 home 


    It's a key game because:

    Espanyol are the in-city rivals. 

    But more than that what worries me about this particular game is the time itself: It's the first game after the winter break. 

    Player usually come tired and late from vacations, heavily hindering their performance when they arrive.

    Case in point: Last season, they barely won against Levante 2-1. 

    So playing against one of your hated rivals a few days after you're eating turkey and gravy isn't the best thing for a schedule to have, is it?

    Espanyol seem to have gotten weaker, but Pochettino runs a tight ship. So expect no silly games from the "other" Barcelona come January. 


    Might get worse if: 

    Espanyol buy a player or two.

    Messi decides to arrive late from vacations. Again (He's done it three years in a row now).

    Xavi and Iniesta eat more Turkey than usual. 

    Early prediction: Espanyol 1-1 Barcelona

5. La Liga Week 37 vs Espanyol: May 6

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    Last season's results against Espanyol: 2-0 home // 1-5 away


    It's a key game because:

    Well, again, they're the city rivals. 

    But (again) what worries me more is the timing, more than the match itself.

    This game will be the next-to-last game of the season, so La Liga could be in its defining moments, and Espanyol could put their hands in it and decide the title winner.


    Ask Tamudo and Real fans how happy his brace got them in 2008.

    So yeah, not a good match to have two weeks away from finishing the season.  


    Might get worse if: 

    Real and Barça are close (or tied) in points.

    Espanyol decides to go on an anti-Barça charade again. 

    Early prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Espanyol

4. Spanish Supercup Second Leg vs Real Madrid: August 17

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    It's a key game because:

    Even though it's might be least important out of the four Real Madrid clashes (so far) this season will have, it could rise up this list depending on how the First Leg on the Bernabeu goes. 

    But even if it's more or less decided, expect tension to be high up in the air just like we saw a few months ago. 

    The diving, the acting and the referees will all be back. 

    And so will Mourinho and his "Anti-Barça 2.0" tactics.

    So be prepared. 


    Might get worse if: 

    The First Leg is lost or tied in Madrid. 

    Mourinho continues to rally against Barça. 

    Early prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid

3. Spanish Supercup First Leg at Real Madrid: August 14

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    It's a key game because:

    It will define who takes the season's first title (or last of the past season, you decide). 

    Barça will try to do a Champions League repeat and score a goal or two to have an easier game at the Camp Nou.

    But you just know Mourinho will be rallying to win this time. 

    And in true Special One style, he'll win any way he can.

    Ask Pepe. 


    Might get worse if: 

    Barça and Madrid get more big signings. 

    Mourinho starts a media war against Barça before the game. 

    Early prediction: Real Madrid 0-1 Barcelona

2. La Liga Week 16 at Real Madrid: December 11

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    Last season's results against Real Madrid: 1-1 away and 5-0 home


    It's a key game because:

    This match could be where La Liga could start to be balanced either way. 

    Last year's 5-0 was a big part Barça won, and Madrid could take advantage of their home field to do the same this year.

    Just as the Supercup games before this one, expect the same tension as last year's matches.


    Might get worse if: 

    There's trouble in the Supercup.

    Barça win the Supercup by a large margin. 

    Barça and Madrid arrive close in points to the match.

    Early prediction: Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona

1. La Liga Week 35 vs Real Madrid: April 22

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    Last season's results against Real Madrid: 5-0 home and 1-1 away

    It's a key game because:

    Like the Espanyol match, the second La Liga Derby will come four weeks removed from the Spanish League's end. 

    That means the stakes probably will be much higher than the other three matches.

    And you just know what that means for everybody: Have a defibrillator ready cause heart attacks will occur aplenty. 

    Expect people to be sent off. 

    Expect people to be angry.

    Expect playing-styles to be questioned. 

    Expect refs to be insulted. 

    Expect anything, basically.

    That's why it's called "El Clásico".


    Might get worse if: 

    Barça and Madrid arrive tied or close point-wise. 

    The other three matches are surrounded in controversy.

    Mourinho is on the warpath again.

    Either team lose the other three matches. 

    Early prediction: Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid