Well Barcelona can check at least one box off the list already this season. At least they are guaranteed at least a shot to tick off a box.
Earlier in the week Leo Messi and co. brushed off Atlético Madrid in their Copa del Rey semifinal tie to advance to the tournament final where they will face the Cinderella of the competition, Alavés. The Basque upstart has surprised many this season, including the Catalan giants whom they defeated early in the season. In the domestic league competition, they sit in 12th place.
In somewhat of a preview, Barça will travel north to play Alavés in a La Liga match this Saturday, looking to avenge their defeat as well as regain a mental edge leading up to the final. Still, Barcelona manager Luis Enrique warns against the threat the newly promoted side poses, calling them a "revelation" this season.
Alavés overcame a quality Celta Vigo side that likely thought they would wind up in the final, as they swept aside Real Madrid in the quarterfinal, ending Madrid's 40-match unbeaten streak. What's more Vigo was well rested, with their weekend league match against Real Madrid postponed due to strong winds causing damage to their home stadium in Spain's northwest region.
However when the Copa final is played on May 27th, Barcelona will be down a player, with forward Luis Suarez banned from the match. Suarez being no stranger to controversy or bans was sent off after picking up his second yellow card in the semifinal match in Barcelona. The Uruguayan striker was booked for a second time after appearing to throw him arm at Koke while jockeying for position on the ball. This coming barely minutes after picking up his first yellow for fouling Atlético defender Juanfran.
Nonetheless, Barcelona have so much talent that they could throw out their reserves and still beat Alavés, or at least they should. However as the Basque team has shown, they are tough and back down to no one. Therefore it could be that Barcelona missing a key cog and having to mix in a new player could be that sliver of daylight Alavés needs to hoist a trophy come the end of May.
Step 1 for Barça will be to win this weekend though, as they need to keep pace with Real Madrid. They sit a point back still despite having played two additional matches. Add to that the fact that the league leaders are playing last-place Osasuna, which should be a sure three points.
Photo: Flickr/El Renzo