With all this talk of Pep’s supposedly sparse player rotation, thin squad, not to mention injuries and suspensions, we at Fcb Fan Drivel had this impression that Barca is pretty much playing the same XI in every game just at interchangeable positions. So we did a quick lookup of playing minutes of top 20 players (er…which is pretty much the total number of first team players at Barca) in terms of minutes played in La Liga and Champions League. Yes Barca has 6 players who’ve played more than 3000 minutes while Real Madrid have 3, both teams have 11 players who’ve played more than 2000 minutes in these two competitions this season. Real Madrid has more players, but it also has a long tail (not shown in the graph) of players who’ve played next to nothing minutes. The top 6 players in both teams have an aggregated difference of 915 minutes in total. Top 11 players have a total difference of 1513. Nothing to bring the roof down really. Will be interesting to contrast this with some team in the EPL, maybe Manchester United, considering Sir Alex Ferguson expressed a lot of surprise as to just how frequently the Barca guys are playing. Iker Casillas and Cristiano Ronaldo have played just as much as Andres Iniesta and Leo Messi. So there.
Bojan is the latest to join the long list of injured, with his season-ending ligament damage to the left knee. A pity really, because he was just starting to look really good, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed for a quick recovery and a strong next season. However, with Bojan out of the plans, Pep must be thanking his lucky stars that he signed Afellay in winter, because otherwise, the only backup for MVP would be…Jeffren. Or Iniesta playing out of position in the front, and he’s already told Pep how he feels about that.
So what are Pep’s options really when it comes to player rotation? We seem to have run out of center backs and forwards, so much so that Pep must be tempted to wrap those remaining in cotton wool outside the football field. It’s either Valdes or whistling Pinto to man the goal. For right back, it’s either Dani Alves or…er….Jeffren (considering Adriano is covering for Maxwell, or rather, it’s the other way around). When it comes to center backs, we have Pique. Well okay, also Gabi and Fontas if you count them, but if Pep wouldn’t start Fontas against Almeria, what are the odds of starting him against Real Madrid really? So it’s either Busi or Masche spilling over from a DM role to fill the CB role, and Xavi/Iniesta backed up by Keita and Afellay. And then there’s Messi, Villa & Pedro, out of who Messi and Pedro claim they are not yet at 100%, and Villa looks rather exhausted all the time. You can understand why the cules feel just a tad bit of trepidation when we consider this is all we have to contest for the treble. Starting with the second leg of quarter finals against Shakhtar tomorrow. So start hunting for four leaf clovers in your spare time. And Visca Barca!