Liga Match Preview & Team News
FC Barcelona must travel to newly promoted Almeria without a number of key players for their Sunday afternoon La Liga clash. The Catalans should be ambitious, however, after rivals Real Madrid lost at Deportivo on Saturday, handing Barcelona a gilt edged opportunity to close the gap to 5 points in the race for the Spanish league title...
The bad news for Barcelona is that Ronaldinho is the latest injury casualty to join Lionel Messi, Deco, Giovani Dos Santos, Santi Ezquerro, Rafael Marquez and Yaya Toure on the sidelines: none of whom have made the trip South. Frank Rijkaard now faces a number of selection problems all over the pitch.
In the absence of Ronaldinho, Messi and Giovani, Rijkaard is almost forced to start with Thierry Henry in attack and it will be very interesting to see both where, and how, the troubled Frenchman plays. Samuel Eto'o will surely start to earn his one 100th cap in Barcelona colours.
Rijkaard insists that his side will stick with their trademark 4-3-3 formation, and said "The system works and we have no reason to change it."
That means that Bojan Krkic, Eidur Gudjohnsen or even Andres Iniesta could well feature up front alongside Eto'o and Henry.
Rijkaard, however, will be forced in to making adjustments in midfield as the absence of both Toure and Marquez mans that Edmilson may well occupy the holding role in midfield: a position that Barcelona fans will remember he struggled to fulfill adequately against Atletico a couple of weeks ago.
Rijkaard remains upbeat, however, and said "The players available have worked with enthusiasm and shown great desire, and we are going to fight for a positive result in this match right up to the final whistle: in spite of the absences."
Almeria, despite their newly promoted status, have given a good account of themslves in La Liga this season and the Nuevo Mediterraneo has become a bit of a fortress. Almeria beat Real Madrid there last month and Frank Rijkaard knows that his side face a very tough match. He said: "It's a difficult ground to go to. They are a good team who normally play well at home, but we are highly motivated and want to show that we are up for it."
After starting the new year in fine form and winning their first six Primera Liga matches after Christmas, Almeria's form has dipped lately, and they have now earned just one point in their last three games.
Unai Emery is confident, however, and says his 8th placed side will be looking for an historic win this afternoon. Emery said: "Barcelona are one of the biggest teams in World football, and even with players missing their potential is still at its maximum level because their squad is like a world all star eleven."
The Almeria coach (who has English ancestry, hence the name Emery) must do without Bruno Saltor who misses the match through injury. Santiago Acasiete should be back, while Juanma Ortiz while from suspension.
Almeria Squad: Diego Alves, Cobeño, Bruno, Aitor López Rekarte, Carlos García, Pulido, Mané, Domingo Cisma, Guilherme, Juanito, Felipe Melo, Corona, Soriano, Iriney , Juanma Ortiz, Ortiz, Negredo, Kalu Uche, Crusat.
Barcelona Squad: TBC
Form Guide (all comps)
Almeria: W2 D2 L2
Barcelona : W3 D1 L2