Friday, 10 April 2009

Preview : Recreativo

Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona

Barca take on “El Decano” Recreativo de Huelva at the Nou Camp on Saturday in a clash between the oldest and third oldest football clubs in Spain. This is Recreativo’s 3rd and longest run in the Primera Division after gaining promotion in June 2006. The previous two times they clawed their way into the top division in 1979 and 2003, they slipped straight back down. The grand-daddy of football in Spain as they like to be known, have nevertheless shown remarkable tenacity in staying relevant over 120 years and also considerable improvement in the new millennium.

Their struggle to consolidate continues this season which they have spent the greater part of; in the bottom 5 places. They currently sit at 18th in the table within the relegation zone, 2 points ahead of Numancia and 1 point behind Getafe and Betis. To put this in perspective though, Valladolid at 9th are only 9 points ahead of Recreativo so another 10 points from the remaining 9 matches might be enough to see them to safety.

Recré have 7 wins overall, 3 of them coming away from home. Their cohesiveness in defence is perhaps illustrated by the fact they have conceded 41 goals which is the same as Valencia and the 8th best in the league. With the available talent though scoring goals has been a lot harder and their record of 27 goals scored is currently the poorest in La Liga. There is little to pick between their home and away records, 53% of their points coming at home and 47% away.

Pep Guardiola might be inclined to dig out the video of the Osasuna game to remind his players just how tough matches against the relegation zone clubs can get. An attitude typical of the bottom of the table clubs in Spain is to go for it, trying just as hard every game while paying little reverence to rank or reputation. Hence they tend to fare better against the big teams than the mid-table clubs who regard them as a genuine threat. Recré have lost all their matches so far to the top 4 clubs but none of those have been by a wide goal margin; the largest being the 2 – 0 loss to Barca.

In that game, the first goal came in 52nd minute and the 2nd in the 86th. After the Bayern win however caution may be an easy thing to preach but much harder to truly instil for Barca. Therefore Pep might help his cause by using for this game, players who still have a lot to prove and hence the motivation to push hard even against weak opposition.

First on the list is Hleb. Guardiola has used Hleb predominantly in the wing positions but Xavi being due a rest after playing a full 90 mins in the international matches and the Valladolid and Bayern games, Hleb might get his chance in the playmaker role. Gudjohnsen or Iniesta are the other options in that position. Caceres will be hoping to get a run out though giving Sylvinho some warm-up before the Bayern game will be the priority. So, I reckon Sylvinho will play about half the match and then be replaced by Caceres. Busquets should be a certainty to start and Bojan will fancy the same.

For the rest of the line-up, it is pretty much shooting in the dark. The key point is that there has to be enough regulars to retain some of the Fear Factor to keep Recré worried while at the same time saving the players for the tough run of games coming up. After this one, the next is Getafe and then the mini-league kickstarts with the CL semis sandwiched in between them.

Lucas Alcarez is the coach of Recré and has had some success getting teams promoted from the Segunda Division to La Liga. However the teams he has handled in the Primera Division invariably drop back to the Segunda; a record he will be hoping to break this time. He hardly has any household names to call on and hence the collective effort of the players will be his only hope to thwart Barca. Additionally some of his best players are ruled out with injuries or suspensions including team joint top scorer Colunga although Camunas is available.

Predicted Lineups

Barca : Valdes, Alves, Marquez, Puyol, Sylvinho, Busquets, Iniesta, Keita, Hleb, Bojan, Henry

Recreativo : Riesgo, Lamas, Poli/Morris, Casado, Barber, Nayar, Sisi, Camunas, Ruben, Maidana

Recré are a plucky team and it is unlikely they will roll over and play dead. At home though, even a reserve Barca team should be able to handle them without overexerting themselves. Barca have to maintain the rhythm they have built up, retaining the 6-point advantage over Real and the psychological edge that goes with it heading into El Classico in the first week of May.

Oh, and another clean sheet will put us on 5 consecutive in La Liga alone.

Prediction : Barcelona 3 – 0 Recreativo

kamikaze kontiki


Ramzi said...

Good preview. May be its better to use caceres and/or Pique instead of Puyol and Uncle Sylvinho. They are younger and more fit For the Fixture pressure.

Harshawardhan said...

Nice one Kamikaze!

Iason said...

Pique deserves a break! He looked like he was struggling for breath in the Vallodolid games at times.
Marquez will definitely play as he isn't playing against Bayern Munich. That means, Puyol takes his place in the middle and Sylvinho takes place in the left against Munich so Sylvinho will probably start this game but will be substituted in the second half for Puyol who might move to the center so Caceres moves to the left.

kamikaze kontiki said...

I forgot to add Nef as right back in the Recré lineup.

noubarca said...

Hleb to score his 1st goal today. anyone?

am goin to the bookmakers right now.

kamikaze kontiki said...

Guardiola's words of wisdom : “every win brings us a lot but every defeat takes it away … the next game is the most important … it’s the test we have to keep passing right up until the end of the season. The players have seen what they have to do to be competitive. The question is whether they can do that in every game and every competition. If we can, we’ll win, but if we can’t, we’ll find it very hard. The challenge is to keep our shape. Teams can beat us, we aren’t unstoppable”.

“With eight games until the end of the season, we have the chance to win three very important points. We have stay dynamic for all 90 minutes. We clearly still have to win a lot of points before we can say we are champions; there are still a lot of things to do. This will be a good test; it will show us what kind of level we are at”.

Guardiola has noticed that their most immediate rival in the league, Real Madrid, “have won 40 of their last 42 points, that’s amazing”. But that is just further inspiration for Barça. “It helps us not to drop of the pace, to keep our shape”.


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