Barcelona fullback Jordi Alba does not believe the combination of Spain’s long journey to and from Qatar in midweek and an early kickoff against Getafe tomorrow should unduly affect the Catalans.
Tomorrow’s fixture will be the first time Barca have played at midday since it was introduced by La Liga at the beginning of last season, but Alba, who was one of nine Barca players who took part in Spain’s 3-1 win over Uruguay on Wednesday, does not believe that should be used as any excuse should the league leaders fail to extend their nine-point lead over Atletico Madrid.
“Getafe are a very difficult opponents. They are aggressive, have quality players and play good football. They will make things difficult for us, but the fact we are playing at 12 shouldn’t be any excuse,” he told Barcelona’s Web site.
This month will be a vital month for Barcelona with big games against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey and AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League to come as they try to repeat their treble-winning season of 2008-2009, but it has started perfectly with the news that Lionel Messi has extended his contract with the club until 2018.
Alba appreciates having the World Player of the Year on his side more than most having faced him many times with Valencia.
“I can’t imagine what Messi will be like in 2018, but his extension is great news for all Barca fans. I had the misfortune of facing him as an opponent and now I am happy to have him as a teammate. I have never seen anyone do the things that he does,” Alba said.
One of those who did not travel with Spain in midweek, though, was Xavi after he pulled out of the squad with an ankle injury and will also miss out tomorrow.
Other than the 33-year-old, Barca have no injury worries, but Getafe have a number of key absentees, particularly in defense.
Goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya is suspended, as is defender Rafa, and Juan Valera is also out with a back injury.
However, midfielder Jaime Gavilan believes Getafe can create an upset, especially given how many Barca players were away on international duty during the week.
“Against Barcelona there is never a right moment to say this is our chance to beat them because you never know how they are going to play, but it is true that without Xavi they are vulnerable. Many players have arrived back after long trips so why can’t we create a surprise?” Gavilan told reporters.
Atletico Madrid, meanwhile, continue their pursuit of the Catalans in a derby away at Rayo Vallecano de Madrid in tomorrow’s late game.
Rayo have been the surprise package of the season and sit just two points off a UEFA Champions League spot in seventh and Atletico boss Diego Simeone is well aware that Paco Jemez’s men possess a major threat to their title chances.
Atletico will be without the suspended Diego Costa, so Adrian Lopez is expected to keep his place in the side, whilst Rayo will be able to recall top-scorer Piti after he missed last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to Sevilla through suspension.
Real Madrid, 16 points off the pace, face Sevilla today ahead of their Champions League clash with Manchester United in midweek.