Hard-hitting Getafe faces Messi’s Barcelona

BARCELONA, SPAIN (AP) — Barcelona’s home match against Getafe tonight promises to be one for aficionados of coaching strategies to savour.

The match not only pits two of the top three teams in the Spanish league, it will also contrast the two most dissimilar playing styles in the competition.

Ever since Johan Cruyff returned to coach Barcelona in the late 1980s, the club have not wavered from the doctrine of dominating the ball and picking opponents apart with an intricate passing attack.

Getafe have surpassed expectations for two consecutive seasons by playing hard-nosed defence that breaks the rhythm of rivals, and wears them down enabling their forwards to produce decisive finishes.

The game plan and teamwork drawn out of middling talent by coach José Bordalás has allowed the small club from southern Madrid to out-perform richer clubs.

Getafe’s budget are less than EUR60 million, putting them in the middle of the financial power ranking of the league. That is compared to around EUR170 million for Valencia and more than EUR600 million each for Barcelona and Real Madrid.

File photo shows Getafe’s defender Damian Suarez (L) vying for the ball against Valencia’s Ferran Torres. PHOTO: AFP

Bordalás’s players tackle hard, hustle to help one another, and rarely leave their defence exposed when they counterattack.

Opponents frequently walk away saying that playing the physical Getafe is just no fun.

“Getafe has a magnificent team and when you don’t go out there to compete you are going to suffer,” Valencia coach Albert Celades said after his team was manhandled by Getafe 3-0 in the last round. That fourth straight win lifted Getafe into third place.

Lionel Messi’s injury-hit Barcelona will face a defence anchored by Togo centre back Djené Dakonam and team leader Damián Suárez.

“Barcelona is a great team and we have lots of respect for them, but I don’t want to talk about our rival. I only want to talk about us and how we are going to fight to get a good result,” Dakonam said.

Dakonam and his teammates have been living up to that talk.

With the defence tough, the forwards have delivered consistent scoring. Three strikers share time in Bordalás’ two-man attack. Ángel Rodríguez leads with 13 goals in all competitions, followed by Jaime Mata’s 10. Jorge Molina, who is playing some of his best football at age 37, has chipped in with seven.

Rodríguez has been included among the small group of players that the Spanish sports media speculates is in the orbit of Barcelona. Barcelona are reportedly planning to ask for La Liga’s permission to sign a player outside the transfer window to fill in for the long-term injury sustained by Ousmane Dembele. He will miss the rest of the season after surgery on a torn right hamstring. Striker Luis Suárez is also out for several weeks.

Barcelona coach Quique Setién, a confessed follower of Cruyff’s school, needs a win to keep the pressure on leader Real Madrid. Barcelona trail Madrid by three points, with Getafe another seven points back.

Setién may have some trouble patching together a defence. Clement Lenglet is serving a one-game suspension, while Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti are doubtful due to injury concerns.