Eight games into the season and it looks like being a close fought contest for the title. Three of the top four sides are playing today and any one of them could, potentially, find themselves at the top of the pile on Monday morning.
Barcelona share the lead with Valencia on 16 points and both sides kick off at 20:00 Spanish time.
Barcelona face Recreativo at the Camp nou and find themselves under the spotlight following their uncharacteristically lacklustre performances of late. It is a match that has been described in ‘Sport’ as “a test, but not an examination”. I have no idea what that means but I would guess that they are suggesting that some of the Barcelona stars need to pull their collective fingers out - that a win is vital to restore confidence – but a defeat would not mean the end of the world. Who says the press don’t get paid to state the obvious?
Deco and Ronaldinho return to the side after being rested in midweek against Badalona. There are many, however, who feel that the pair’s poor form can be attributed to a lack of physical conditioning and that they could do with a slightly longer lay-off.
Messi will miss the match in spite of having recovered from the knock he picked up against Real Madrid as Rijkaard opts for caution and wraps his prodigy in cotton wool ahead of Tuesday’s Champions league clash against Chelsea. Giuly should start in the Argentine’s place and the French winger feels “We are still top of the league and we're very relaxed. We were all a little tired in the games against Real Madrid and Chelsea, but I think that's normal. Were not going to be fantastic every game of the season”
The former Monaco star is confident that Barcelona will go on to retain the League title this year.
"That's what we are here for; I think we have the best side and with a win on Saturday, everything will get back to normal again."
Frank Rijkaard is aware that the game against Recre is not going to be an easy one and said “Recreativo are a good side who are on form this season. They’ve had some great results, especially away from home, and are a very well-organised outfit"
Recre currently sit in ninth place with 10 points and started the season well following promotion to the Primera, but have lost their last two league matches (Getafe and Atletico).
Defender Iago Barber and Midfielder Rafael Bouzon passed late fitness tests on Friday and will make a welcome return to the side for coach Marcelino García Toral.
"It is almost impossible for a side like ours to win in the Nou Camp, but we will give everything and try to do things well. I hope that at the end of the game we can look back on our performance with some pride” Said Toral.
Recreativo Huelva have never scored at the camp nou but will hoping that this is the right time to be playing the champions who are either in crisis or about to come roaring back – depending on where you buy your newspapers.
Valencia, level with Barcelona on 16 points after beating Osasuna last weekend, travel to Racing Santander. Quique Sanchez Flores will do well to stay on top this weekend as his side have been decimated by injuries. Albelda picked up a knee injury against Osasuna and joins Del Horno, Baraja, Marchena and Vicente in the treatment room.
As a result, Flores may be forced to move Albiol into midfield to play alongside the returning Edu.
The Valencia boss will receive little sympathy from Racing coach Miguel Angel Portugal who has problems of his own after fans demanded his resignation the last time his side played at home four weeks ago. He has done his cause some good by picking up four points in the teams last two away fixtures and will be able to recall Munitis and Zigic for the return to the Sardinero this evening in search of their first home win of the season.