Although typically taking place before the start of the season, the Trofeu Joan Gamper’s 2012 edition will feature an FC Barcelona side fresh off an emphatic 5-1 La Liga debut over Real Sociedad barely 24 hours after the final whistle.
For the third time in as many years, the one-off match will feature an Italian opponent (AC Milan 2010, Napoli 2011), this time in the form of Sampdoria, the team over which Johan Cruyff led Barcelona to its first ever European title to back in 1992. Twenty years later, Tito Vilanova’s Barça is fresh off a pretty decent preseason that saw the likes of a Lionel Messi hat trick against Raja Athletic and some fine penalty shootout saves from Jose Manuel Pinto, who should start in net today.
Sampdoria has yet to begin its domestic campaign against AC Milan this weekend and Vilanova will likely be looking to use this match to give more playing time to his bench. In all likelihood both managers will be letting the big guns stay chilly in what is ultimately the final test of the preseason.
Expect Vilanova to blood several B-teamers we here at totalBarça have been dying to see break into some first team action, like Alejandro Grimaldo, Gerard Deulofeu and Jean-Marie Dongou to name a few. With but Marc Muniesa scratched off the roster, Vilanova has plenty of cover for his starters and plenty of youth to begin throwing into the pool.
Carles Puyol and Adriano could start in the back line, though Thursday’s Super Copa first leg against Real Madrid might make Tito seek help in the form of Sergi Gomez, Grimaldo or Carles Planas instead.
Ahead of the back line we will probably see the young Mexican Jonathan dos Santos playing the Busquets role with team mates Thiago Alcântara and Ibrahim Afellay or Sergi Roberto. Afellay could be sent out to the front lines, however to make room for Roberto or some other youngsters like Thiago’s brother Rafinha, new signing Joan Àngel Román, or Javier Espinosa.
Deulofeu, Rafinha and Afellay are all strong candidates for the front line. All three have enjoyed a strong preseason and are seeking to show Vilanova they can carry their form through to the beginning of the season. Dongou is another exciting prospect who has been on the radar for a few seasons now. Could this be the year he steps up in the early stages of the Champions League and Copa del Rey to begin carving out a place in the first team?
Predicted starting XI - Pinto; Montoya, Bartra, Sergi Gomez, Grimaldo; dos Santos, Sergi Roberto, Román; Afellay, Rafinha, Deulofeu
Prediction: Barcelona on home turf? Shouldn’t be a problem for the La Masia swarm. I expect some jitters and fine keeping from Sergio Romero in the Italian net, but overall cohesion by the final whistle.
Barcelona 4-2 Sampdoria