Barcelona squad at limit for Malaga trip

January 20th, 2012 - 10:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, Jan 20 (IANS) Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola has been caught in two minds whether to rest key players or not for their visit to Malaga Sunday, keeping in mind the second leg of their Copa Del Rey clash against arch rivals Real Madrid slated for Wednesday.

Barca’s 2-1 win in the Santiago Bernabeu has given the Catalans one foot in the semi-final of the Copa del Rey, but Guardiola’ s side know they cannot afford to drop any more points in the Spanish Primera Liga or else they will risk losing the more important league title to Madrid.

With the return leg of the Cup to be played in Barcelona, Guardiola won’t want to risk tiring his players ahead of such an important game, but neither will he be able to make wholesale changes against a team that has European ambitions of its own.

Javier Mascherano could well step into the Barca defense, but injuries to Andreu Fontas, David Villa and Ibrahima Affelay as well Seydou Keita’s presence in the Africa Cup of Nations has limited Guardiola’ s options.

The Barca coach will be keen to see Pedro Rodriguez shake off a hamstring strain and the winger could have a chance along with winger Isaac Cuenca, otherwise it is hard to see how Guardiola can tweak his side in order to save some tired legs unless he places faith in B-team players such as Manuel Montoya and Jonathan Dos Santos.

Malaga meanwhile go into the game with some question marks raised over coach Manuel Pellegrini.

The Chilean has been given the job of guiding the club into Europe and Malaga were one of the top three spenders in Spain over the summer. So far their season has been filled with ups and downs, mixing some decent displays with disastrous performances.

Pellegrini’s side entertain Barca on the back of a 2-1 defeat away to Sporting Gijon and with his side currently eighth in the table, that is not good enough.

Defeat to Barca would see Malaga slip into mid-table and the questions over Pellegrini’s direction of the team would start to be asked louder than ever. It is true that the side miss the presence of Julio Cesar Baptista in attack, but at times other key players such as Santi Cazorla and Ruud Van Nistelrooy have not given the displays that are expected of them.

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