Despite all the rumors surrounding Guardiola’s renewal with the club, FC Barcelona had to focus on the task at hand; solidifying a spot in the final eight of the Kings Cup. Guardiola was faced with mixing up the starting eleven as Valdes, Messi and Iniesta had been ruled out for the match against Osasuna.
In their last match played on December 21st against L’Hospitalet; the first to be played following Villa’s injury, Guardiola’s attacking three consisted of Pedro, Fontas and Cuenca. This match, there would be only one change to the offense; Fabregas would replace Fontas- and as always, Guardiola had it right. Fabregas would be responsible for two of the goals, both coming within the first twenty minutes.
Despite being ruled out due to the flu, Messi would make his appearance in the 58th as Pedro came off. The striker, who was on the bench told Guardiola that he was feeling better and wanted to play, and as Guardiola stated; “We know that we are a little bit better with Messi”. The quote could be no closer to the truth as Messi would score two more goals; the first coming in the 73rd, while the second seemed just a cherry on top in the 91st leaving Osasuna speechless.
Although many had considered Villa’s injury one that could be detrimental to the club, it would appear that FCB has more than ample options on the bench to maintain domination despite the absence of the superstar striker.
Youngster, Isaac Cuenca has quickly become a favorite of Guardiola’s, and has made the transition to playing with the A-squad seem like a walk in the park. Surely, he does still show some weakness in his defense, but when Cuenca gets the ball, he is swift and tricky. With the absence of Villa, this season may show the true skills of this 20-year old. His style of play has already attracted attention from Arsenal and Chelsea; however Cuenca has made it very clear that he is ready to sign a contract with FCB and remain with the Champions.
Despite the comfortable win over Osasuna, Guardiola stated; “We’ve made a positive step forward in the playoff, but we still need to go to Pamplona.” Of course, Pep was referring to the 5-0 defeat over Betis, only to suffer on the return leg of that match.
If both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid go on to win the second leg of their respective matches next week, we will be in store for another “El Clasico”. Despite all the hype and excitement that surrounds a match between the Spanish powerhouses, one must be realistic; having these two meet as frequently as they have over the last few months takes away from the intensity and passion that goes along with such a rivalry.
Copa Del Rey Round of 16 continues this afternoon as Cordoba takes on Espanyol, and Valencia face Sevilla.
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