Barça bid to turn new year around

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL -

MADRID: World cham­pi­ons Barcelona will be aim­ing to fin­ish their bad start to 2010 to­mor­row, by winning away to lowly Tener­ife.

2009 was an “an­nus mirabilis” for Barca, but so far 2010 has been an “an­nus hor­ri­bilis”.

Last Satur­day Josep Guardi­ola’s team were held 1-1 at home by lively Vil­lar­real.

Things went from bad to worse on Tues­day, with a shock 2-1 cup de­feat at home to in­jury-hit Sevilla.

De­spite the stut­ter­ing start, Guardi­ola has made it clear that there will be no win­ter sign­ings.

In­stead, he will be looking to­wards youngsters like Jonathan and Thi­ago to cover for African Na­tions Cup ab­sen­tees Sey­dou Keita and Yaya Toure.

“I have com­plete faith in th­ese young play­ers,” Guardi­ola said when asked if he wasn’t re­ly­ing too heav­ily on the kids.

In Ten­er­fire he will be without sus­pended Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic. There­fore, Thierry Henry will play cen­tre-for­ward, with Lionel Messi and Pe­dro on the wings. Pe­dro, born and raised in Tener­ife, said “it will be very spe­cial for me to go back there as a Barca player.”

Tener­ife are fourth from bot­tom and fac­ing a long, grim rel­e­ga­tion strug­gle. Barca are two points ahead of Real Madrid, who are at home to fourth-placed Mal­lorca ear­lier to­mor­row.

Mal­lorca have won all their home matches but only one on the road. How­ever, they have won three times in the Es­ta­dio Bern­abeu in the past six years, be­tween league and cup matches.

Real are hop­ing that Kaka will be fit af­ter miss­ing out for a month with a nig­gling pu­bis in­jury. Ser­gio Ramos and Las­sana Diarra are both sus­pended, so Al­varo Ar­be­loa will fill in at right-back, with ei­ther Roys­ton Dren­the or Marcelo mov­ing to left-back.

Also to­mor­row, third-placed Va­len­cia will be away to bot­tom team Xerez, while De­portivo Coruna face Osasuna and Es­panyol take on Zaragoza. Malaga, mean­while, will play hosts to Ath­letic Bil­bao and Sport­ing Gi­jon will face Getafe.

The 17th round of matches will kick off to­day with fifth-placed Sevilla at home to Racing San­tander. Atletico Madrid – who crashed 3-0 in the cup away to sec­ond divi­sion Re­cre­ativo Huelva on Wed­nes­day – will be away to Val­ladolid, while fast-im­prov­ing Vil­lar­real will face Alme­ria. – Sapa-dpa

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