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The five alternatives to Piqué and Puyol

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24.08.2011 12:55

The five alternatives to Piqué and Puyol

Marc Guillén

With Piqué’s calf injury and Puyol’s continuing absence, Barça are missing the main central defensive pair, but Guardiola still has a few quality options: Abidal, Fontàs, Mascherano, Busquets, and Bartra.

The five alternatives to Piqué and Puyol

Without Piqué they still win
Last season Barça played 11 games without Piqué, with a balance of 9 wins, 1 draw, and 1 defeat, in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup, when there were many players missing. The balance last year in games without Puyol and Piqué is much the same, with 6 wins, 1 draw, and the 1 defeat in that game in Seville. Without going any further, the team overcame the absences of Piqué and Puyol in games as important as the 3-1 comeback against Arsenal in the Champions League last 16.
The Barça squad is becoming more and more versatile, and Guardiola is achieving his goal that each player can play in more than one position. This means that he has more options in unforeseen circumstances. The middle of the defence is no exception and Guardiola has several players to choose from. For example, a few days ago Mascherano and Abidal played together in Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.

Natural changes

As well as Puyol and Piqué, Pepe has Abidal and Fontàs as regular central defenders. The Frenchman has played most of his career as a left-back, but during last season he played more games as a central defender. As for Fontàs, he’s come up from the B Team as another central defender.

Defensive midfielders as central defenders

When Puyol and Abidal were missing for a lot of games last season, Guardiola opted to try Busquets as a central defender, and he did really well in key games like the ones against Arsenal, but it was Mascherano who ended up playing there. The Argentinian took Puyol’s place in the Champions League Final, and this season he may end up playing more as a central defender than as a midfielder.

The B Team, with Bartra at the head

Guardiola has always said, and shown, that he doesn’t want a large squad, and he has a lot of confidence in the B team and youth players. The clear alternative from the B Team is Bartra, who last season was the player who most often replaced Pique: in 4 of the 11 games that Piqué didn’t play, Bartra started the game.

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