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Aug 13, 2008

Guardiola's First Competitive MatchBarcelona will kick off the official 2008-09 season with Champions League qualification match against Wisla Krakow. I still remember when I used to play Fifa 2004, I always used to get Wisla in the CL qualification against Barcelona. Now that's coincidence. Barcelona will be playing the first leg in Camp Nou tonight. Most of the Barcelona new signings are expected to make debut today. But all the talks looks like is centered on one aspect; the missing of Messi in the qualification. There are suggestions being made that Barcelona might find it tough against Wisla especially without Messi. For me, these all are rubbish; stupid reasons cultivated by the club in order to achieve the moral high ground to keep Messi away from Olympics. Anyway that is solved and to my satisfaction Messi is in Beijing fighting for his country. Basketball superstar, Kobe Bryant will be cheering for Argentina and Messi for their match against Serbia. He might very well miss the chance to see Messi in action as he might start only from the reserve bench.

Coming back to the match in hand, the first good news is that Guardiola has indicated that Eto is going to stay. He said that this is what both him and Eto desires. So we will have the wily Cameroonian starting in the centre of the pack with Henry on the left (for what, you might ask) and Bojan on the right. Hleb looks more comfortable on the left and that's why I'm betting on Bojan to start the match. Midfield would be dominated by the creative heads of Iniesta and Xavi along with Toure. Like Hleb we can expect keita to make his mark after the half time. Defense line up could be surprising. Alves and Abidal for me should start as full backs, but who will partner Puyol in the centre his a question. My bet is on Marquez, but if you see Caceres don't get surprised.

As far as the match, this leg in Camp Nou should be an easy option. Wisla are expected to fight bravely, but they are going to miss their captain Arkadiusz Geowaki through injury. But their manager, Maciej Skorza is upbeat. He says the pressure is on Barcelona as they are expected to qualify and for them it will be just a dream. Barcelona has to gain a sizeable advantage in terms of goal difference to take to Wisla. Most of the Barcelona fans were skeptical about the fact of playing the first leg at home. I think this one suits fine, its always better for a coach to make his debut in front of home crowds.

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