Madrid: FC Barcelona will take a much depleted squad to face struggling Zaragoza in the La Romareda Stadium.
Barca`s Champions League exertions against Paris Saint Germain on Wednesday have taken their toll on Lionel Messi, who made a decisive 30-minute cameo in that game despite muscle problems.
The striker, to be rested on Sunday, will be `wrapped in cotton wool` between now and the Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich and it is obvious coaches Tito Vilanova and Jordi Roura will be taking no risks with any of their star players between now and those two games against Bayern Munich.
Barca`s 13 point lead at the top of the La Liga means that the league title is all but assured and the only question is when Barca will officially be crowned as champions. Perhaps for that reason, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Jose Pinto have all been rested for the trip to Zaragoza.
The good news is that Victor Valdes is back in goal after completing his four game suspension, although, it has to be said that Pinto once again performed well in his place. Meanwhile, Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano are both out with knee problems.
Adriano Coreira has been included in the squad, despite needing to be substituted against Paris on Wednesday, while B team players Sergio Roberto and goalkeeper Oier Olazabal have also been included.
In his pre-match press conference, Roura admitted that the Barca squad was suffering from tiredness and were struggling physically. However, he was also confident that they would be able to recover in time for the important games which lie ahead.
The absences come at a good time for Zaragoza, who despite playing a battling draw at home to Real Madrid a fortnight ago had a dismal 2013, without a win since the start of the year in a run that has now seen the side go 14 matches without a victory.
That run has seen Manolo Jimenez`s side slip to 17th in the table, just a point above the last relegation zone which is occupied Deportivo la Coruna, who have won their last three games. So anything other than a win could see Jimenez`s side drop into the bottom three and place his job in serious peril.
Given that the Barca side could still include players such as David Villa, Cesc Fabrigas, Alex Song and perhaps Eric Abidal, Jimenez is probably right to be cautious.