Barcelona woke up today in Palma, Mallorca. Literally speaking, at least. Owing to the kick-off time for their match today (17.50), they decided to change the habit of travelling during the day and yesterday caught a flight to the Balearic Islands. It remains to be seen if the move will also affect their performance on the pitch. It's been a long time since Barcelona have taken to the field after a defeat. On Wednesday, they were toppled in Glasgow and today it's time to move on, at the kind of place where nothing comes easy.
But Barça have a number of things in their favour. They lost against Celtic, but the route map is more than clear today. They know that if they do the same as in Scotland, they'll have plenty of chances to win the match; defeats like this week's happen sometimes. But there's also the danger they'll do less, as we've seen before. For example in Pamplona and Seville; places where they won, but could equally have lost. Vilanova is faced with an interesting dilemma regarding the motivation of his players.
Same script. Barcelona are very aware that today's match is one of those way posts in the season. They'll want it to define the personality of a team that knows that despite losing, they did the majority of things the right away. That's why there will be few changes in the 'blaugrana' starting line up.
In defence, it could be an opportune moment to give Mascherano a rest, after an almost super-human run that's seen him plugging gaps everywhere. The return of Fàbregas looks more than probable in midfield; he should accompany Busquets, who was suspended for the match in Scotland. Further forward, anything other than a three with Villa and Messi would be a shock. The third place will be taken up by Tello, Pedro or Alexis.
The ex-Barça player Giovani dos Santos won't be able to face his old team, as he's suffering from a thigh strain.
Puyol didn't travel, but he'll be ready next week
Carles Puyol stayed in Barcelona yesterday and didn't travel with his team despite having been training normally for two days; that was agreed on by the player and club medical staff. He should be ready to receive medical consent next week before Zaragoza's visit to the Camp Nou. If he does, that would mean he's cut his expected time out by 20 days, since dislocating his elbow in Lisbon.