Barcelona’s Busquets blow, Monaco v PSG and the Anthony Martial matter: Big Weekend Preview
Here are the biggest talking points ahead of the football weekend.
Sergio Busquets leaves Barcelona with a huge hole to fill
Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets is a bit of a polarising player. In a team packed with so much attacking ability, he might look like a limited member of the side.
He only passes it sideways, they say. He only plays five-yard passes. And the sight of him rolling around on the floor after minimal contact is fairly common.
However, to criticise his role at Barca is to fail to understand how important a player like Busquets can be. Like Didier Deschamps in France’s 1998 World Cup winning side, Busquets does the dirty work and he does it well.
He’s an excellent tackler and, yes, he plays a lot of short passes but that’s because he is the pivot for Barca’s more talented players to bounce the ball off.
Everyone knows Busquets will be sat there, at the base of the midfield, Barcelona’s security blanket allowing others to fly forward.
The fact he has been a consistent factor in trophy-winning Barca and Spain teams is an indicator of how his coaches value him.
Last week, Busquets was on the end of a brutal tackle at Eibar and will miss several games with an ankle ligament injury.
And Barca don’t really have another player to do his job. Javier Mascherano, a converted midfielder playing centre-back, might step in or Ivan Rakitic could play there.
But neither will break up play like Busquets or offer the same reassurance to others and Barca could really suffer while their key man is out injured.
The strange case of Anthony Martial
Anthony Martial is one of the most exciting wide players in the Premier League — with his Thierry Henry like-style — and sometimes one of the most frustrating.
He’s not particularly consistent, which is fairly understandable as he has just turned 21 and this is his second season in the Premier League.
But this seems to have got on the nerves of manager Jose Mourinho.
He was a first-choice starter at the beginning of the season before he lost his place as United’s form stuttered.
He has since put in three man-of-the-match performances, but seems unable to get a run of games together. One great display then back on the bench.
Mourinho appears to be unwilling to give him regular action but it is a Catch 22 situation. Without game time, his form will keep going through peaks and troughs.
Martial will most likely play against Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup on Sunday and probably score against the struggling Championship side.
And then go back to the bench for Hull at home in the Premier League on Wednesday.
Can Monaco do the double over PSG?
Monaco are still scoring at a rate of three goals per game — 64 in 21 in Ligue 1 — and they have a three-point advantage of PSG at the top of the table, with Nice sandwiched in between.
People assumed PSG would recover from their poor start to the season and take control of the title race, but we’re approaching business time in the season and still Unai Emery’s team are trailing.
It makes PSG v Monaco in Paris on Sunday a huge game. The visitors stuck three past PSG when they won 3-1 at home earlier in the season and they are bound to score.
It could turn into a thriller and anything but a PSG win will make Monaco title favourites.
Real Sociedad can be spoilers
Real Madrid were not going to go through the season unbeaten and they are having an understandable mini dip in form.
After losing 2-1 at Sevilla in the league to end their 40-match run without defeat, they have lost at home to Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey, before a 2-2 second leg result on Wednesday dumped them out of the tournament.
They also limped to a 2-1 win in the league at home to Malaga in-between.
So it seems as though a second league defeat of the season is just around the corner.
Step in Real Sociedad, who are having a fantastic season. They sit fifth in the table, level with Atletico Madrid on points. After holding Barcelona to a 1-1 draw earlier this season, they will fancy their chances of getting something at the Bernabeu, especially as Madrid are without three first-choice players in Marcelo, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale.
Will Big Sam sacrifice the Cup?
Manchester City’s last trip to London in the FA Cup ended in a 5-0 demolition of West Ham and their visit to Crystal Palace on Saturday could end in a similar result.
Palace dropped into the relegation zone last week in the Premier League and still haven’t won under new manager — and relegation survival specialist — Sam Allardyce.
Surely he is going to play a weakened side and save his best players for vital league matches.
City will be licking their lips, especially as Pep Guardiola has stated that he’ll play his best side in the tournament.
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Published: January 26, 2017 04:00 AM