Barça bid to turn new year around
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