A replacement for Keita?
Guardiola admitted that he’s not sure yet if he will bring in a player from the reserves to cover for Keita, who leaves for the Africa Cup of Nations on Monday. However, he pointed out that Mascherano can also play in midfield.
For Josep Guardiola, this Sunday’s derby against Espanyol is “yet more proof” of how competitive La Liga is. And he is convinced that every match between the Barcelona rivals reveals one common denominator both teams exercise intense pressure. “We’re playing in a difficult stadium. It’s one of our most difficult games of the year and this year won’t be an exception. We’ve up against a very tough test let’s see if we’re good enough to pass”.
A difficult stadium
Guardiola believes the derby “could be a match that sets the tone for the month”. “Previous experience gives us a good idea of what we’ll find. Espanyol isn’t only a young, strong team that fights and comes looking for you but they can play a bit”. What’s more their ground has always been tricky for us. It was like that when they were at Sarri and at Montjuc, and it’s the same in Cornell. It’s one of those away games that you always mark down as difficult when you look at the fixture list”.
Iniesta fit for action
Without a doubt one of the best bits of news of the day was the medical all clear for Andrs Iniesta: “He’s been declared fit by the doctors and he’ll almost certainly be in the squad. It’s very good news. It wasn’t much and now he’s fine again. The team is always decided on the day of the match. Tomorrow we’ll see what shape we’re in and depending on that I’ll decide”.
Asked whether the Club was considering some kind of replacement for David Villa, Guardiola made it very clear that this isn’t on the table: “We’re attacking pretty well, creating a lot of moves and quite a few chances. If a few things are changed about then that’s adjusting to the opponent. We’re not going to the transfer market. These are the players we’ve got and depending on them we’ll play one way or another”.
Welcome to Mrquez
On Thursday he worked out with the youngsters of Bara B and on Sunday it was the turn of his former team-mates to welcome back the Mexican international. Rafa Mrquez, who currently plays for the New York Red Bulls, is keeping in shape during the MLS break at the training grounds of FC Barcelona. Guardiola told us: “I’m pleased to have seen him. He’s a wonderful person and helped me a lot at the beginning. He’s happy. People who have given so much for this Club are always welcome here”.