Game 2 of the 2012 preseason takes place tomorrow evening, 22:00 local time, versus Raja Club Athletic at Grand Stade, Tangiers, Morocco. FC Barcelona return to the nation of Morocco for the first time in 28 years, last playing in Casablanca in 1974 against Wydad.
The original agreement Barça made was to play a selection of all star Moroccan league players, but ultimately the local organizers decided the opponent would be Raja Club Athletic. Raja are from the city of Casablanca, and traditionally wear green as tribute to both the national flag and the religion of Islam. 10 time domestic champions, 3 time Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League winners, and the only Moroccan club to participate in the FIFA World Club Cup earned Raja third spot in CAF’s team of the century in 2000. They are managed by Mohamed Fakhir and almost the entire squad is Moroccan, with only 2 foreigners in Tunisian Adel Chedli and Ivory Coast man Kouko Guehi.
Still without the Spanish Euro and Olympic contingent, Tito Vilanova has again mostly filled his 22-man squad with players from the B team and below (13 of the 22). The big news for Moroccan fans is that Lionel Messi is fit and will travel. Muniesa, after another awful set back, stays behind as does Illie and Román. The 9 first team players are Pinto, Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Adriano, Dos Santos, Alexis, Afellay, and Messi.
Once again, one has to take a friendly for exactly what it is. It’s used mainly for fitness as well as promotion of the team abroad. Some have expressed negative views on the fact Barça are not using their star players in these matches, but one must understand the workload the Spanish players have undertaken in recent years. Spain entered the 2012 Euro as the team with the highest average minutes played by its members over the past club season. Giving them a deserved holiday is more beneficial to FC Barcelona in the long run, and that’s priority. If anything, these games are more valued by the reserve team players keen to prove themselves playing along side the likes of Messi and Mascherano. Nevertheless, it’s a Barça game so sit back, enjoy, and gain some insight into the Masia hopefuls that in some years time could be the next jersey on your back.
Pinto, Oier, Alves, Bartra, Lombán, Sergi Roberto, Deulofeu, Dos Santos, Alexis, Messi, Rafinha, Mascherano, Kiko Femenía, Sergi Gómez, Lobato, Patric, Planas, Afellay, Adriano, Balliu, Espinosa, Gustavo.