FC Barcelona will look to the return of club captain Carles Puyol to stem the flow of goals against them and help them open up an 11 point lead over Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga.
Barca’s home match against Zaragoza kicks off at 8 pm local time on Saturday night, two hours before Real Madrid begin their home match against Athletic Club Bilbao.
A win against Zaragoza would once again mean Madrid were obliged to win their game and although their rivals have so far withstood the pressure in recent weeks, Barca will hope that with points in the bag, something sooner or later has to give with their rivals.
However, to ensure the points stay in the Camp Nou against a Zaragoza side that is much improved on last season, Barca have to tighten up a defense that has shown a tendency to leak goals at an alarming rate this season.
Injuries have forced coach Tito Vilanova to make continual changes and the result is reflected in the 14 goals his side have shipped in 11 encounters. Although that is around the average for the majority of sides in Spain, it is a lot for a side with pretensions to win the title and although they are scoring an average of three goals a match, the leaky defense puts more pressure on the club’s strikers.
Vilanova will hope the return of the inspirational Puyol, who is back after dislocating an elbow, will bring with it energy and power to the defense. Puyol will partner Gerard Pique, who himself has just returned from an ankle problem and that should also see Barca look stronger defending set pieces, especially if Sergio Busquets is used in the holding midfield role.
Meanwhile in attack, Leo Messi continues his march towards football history. The Argentinean scored his 75th and 76th goals of the year in the 4-2 win in Mallorca last weekend and is now only 9 goals away from Gerd Muller’s all time record of 85 goals in a year.Xinhua