After booking a place in the semifinals of the Champions League in midweek, Barcelona will be without a host of first-team players for Sunday’s encounter with Real Zaragoza at La Romareda.
Lionel Messi was hugely influential in edging Barcelona through on away goals against Paris Saint-Germain, yet looked barely fit after suffering a hamstring injury the previous week and has not be included in the squad to face Zaragoza.
Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba will also both be rested, while Sergio Busquets has a groin strain. With Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano already ruled out, it will be an unfamiliar side that takes the field.
Barcelona have a 13 point in La Liga and, despite their Champions League process, assistant coach Jordi Roura has said that the league remains their primary goal.
“The league is basic for us, it’s our first objective,” he explained, according to Barcelona’s official website. “It’s true that we’re a bit stretched but the squad has strength in depth and without [the contribution] of every player we couldn’t be league leaders. We hope to recover people and fitness in this final stage of the season.”
Because of the injuries in defense, Gerard Pique is again likely to have to play, despite Roura suggesting that the center-back is in need of a rest.
Zaragoza will be desperate for any points after going 13 matches without a win. Last weekend’s 3-2 loss to relegation rivals Deportivo La Coruna saw Manolo Jiminez’s side drop into the bottom three. They did, though, secure a point recently against Real Madrid and will hope to at least do the same against fellow heavyweights Barcelona.
Zaragoza may have midfielder Apono back, but will be without Franco Zuculini, Ivan Obradovic and Javi Alamo because of injury and Abraham through suspension.
D: Alves, Bartra, Pique, Adriano
M: Thiago, Song, Fabregas
F: Sanchez, Villa, Tello
Real Zaragoza (probable)
D: Sapunaru, Loovens, Gonzalez, Paredes
M: Movilla, Apono
Oriol, Rodriguez, Montanes
Prediction: Barcelona’s defense, already a weakness, now looks particularly vulnerable with a host of players set to be unavailable for their back line on Sunday. Zaragoza, though, are likely to be unable to take advantage, with only two teams having scored fewer goals in La Liga this season.
Barcelona showed in a 5-0 win over Mallorca last week that even a much-changed lineup can win in style and a comfortable win looks on the cards against struggling Zaragoza.
Real Zaragoza 1-3 Barcelona
Where to watch: The Liga match will kick-off at 1 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.