Last Sunday saw the official start of the 2012/13 season in Spain. Barça had a very comfortable 5-1 victory at home against Real Sociedad. Not much has changed over the close season. New coach Tito Vilanova was not expected to change much and he hasn’t. Only two arrivals, Jordi Alba and Alex Song. Alba will occupy the left back slot vacated by Eric Abidal as he once again embarks on the slow road to recovery. Song on the other hand has been signed as cover for Busquets in the defensive midfield role. A couple of fringe players may well leave the club before the end of the month. Jonathan Dos Santos and Ibrahim Afellay are the most likely to leave.
Though they had an impressive start to the league campaign we will get a better idea of how the season might go after Thursday’s match agains Real Madrid. This is the first leg of the Super Cup and also at home. Everyone expects this to be a whole different ball game from Sunday. How are Barça shaping up this early? Little change from last season. Barça started the match once again with only two fit strikers – Pedro and Messi. Alexis has a minor injury and David Villa is still in the early stages of recovering match fitness. Though Villa did come on for the last 20 minutes or so and even scored a good goal. Barça need a fully fit and in form Villa if they are to win back the crown. With only two fit strikers the third attacking place went to Christian Tello, who had a very good game. He has exceptional pace and good ball control. As yet he hasn’t shown evidence that he can become a regular goal scorer, which is what Barça really need up front. Good player to have around though.
The main, slight change from last season was in midfield and defence. Vilanova started with Xavi and Fàbregas in the creative midfield roles. Iniesta came on in the second half for Xavi. This would seem to indicate that Fàbregas will play primarily as a midfielder for Barça and not as a striker. It will be interesting to see how this develops as there will be intense competition for these two places in the team. Even more when Thiago gets the all clear to return. The other change was the introduction of Jordi Alba at left back. As the game developed Alba became more and more adventurous and combined well with Tello as an attacking duo. This meant that Dani Alves at right back tended to play more as a defender than as an extra forward. At times it looked like Barça were playing three at the back, so often was Alba up front.
This will be one of the more interesting things to watch for in Thursday’s match. Will either Alba or Alves get the space to join the attack or will they be forced to stay back to snuff out any Real attacks down the wings? Will it be Iniesta or Fàbregas who joins Xavi in midfield? And up front has Alexis recovered sufficiently to accompany Pedro and Messi in attack? Whoever plays, this match and the return in the Bernabeu should give us plenty to chew over. Can’t wait!