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06.11.2007 13:13

A guaranteed defence

Sandra Sarmiento

Barça have the best defensive record in the league after letting in just 8 goals, and have yet to concede a single goal in three Champions League encounters.

The arrival of such new players as Abidal and Milito (plus Touré, who often does a lot to help out at the back) have made Rijkaard’s side more defensively solid than ever. In 14 different official matches at home and in Europe, Barça have started with no fewer than 11 different defensive line-ups. As well as tactical switches, injuries to Puyol, Márquez, Zambrotta, Milito and Abidal have enforced these changes.

Three repeats

During the first five league matches, with Puyol still recovering from a knee injury, Zambrotta and Abidal were the regular full backs, but Márquez, Thuram and Oleguer alternated in the middle. However, the same defence consisting of Zambrotta, Milito, Márquez and Abidal was fielded against Sevilla, Zaragoza and Olympique Lyon.

Puyol returns

stuttgart_-fcb-puyol_x1x.jpgAt the Ciudad de Valencia, Barça’s captain made his long awaited return, while Zambrotta missed the game through injury. The back four against Levante hence featured Oleguer, Thuram, Milito and Abidal. On October 2, at the Gottlieb Daimler Stadium, an injury to Márquez in the 6th minute meant Puyol was sent straight on to replace him without time for a warm-up.

More changes

With the Mexican sidelined, as well as Zambrotta and Touré (who slots in just in front of the back four), Oleguer, Milito, Puyol and Abidal teamed up once again to face Atlético Madrid and Villarreal. In Glasgow and Valladolid, Rijkaard opted to play Puyol at right back, while Abidal missed the trip to the Nuevo Zorilla due to an ankle injury. That meant Sylvinho started his first game of the season.
A guaranteed defence
Numbers speak for themselves
Despite the astounding amount of changes to the Barça back four throughout this first third of the season, both as a result of injuries and in order to rest overworked players, the results have been extremely positive. Only 8 goals conceded in 11 league games, and none in 3 Champions League outings. You couldn’t realistically hope for any better than that.

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