After what seems like an eternity, the preseason of 2012 is finally coming to a close, against the Barcelona B side. This will be the first match the team has played at the Reebok since last season. Despite being only Barca B, this will undoubtedly be the toughest test the Whites have faced, fitting for the last run out before entering a new league.
Bolton will be Barca B's second English match, they played fellow Championship new-comers Huddersfield Town on Wednesday, coming away the 2-0 winners thanks to second half goals from Gerard Deulofeu and Sergio Araujo, the first of those being a penalty. Barcelona B is technically a reserve side, but plays in the second division of Spanish football, the Liga Adelante. Last season they finished 8th. Like the senior team, there's an emphasis on possession and passing, a game that will challenge a struggling Bolton midfield.
With this in mind, a 4-5-1 formation by Bolton would probably be the most effective. Central midfielder Mark Davies looks set to leave the club for a sizable sum, which does limit Owen Coyle's options a bit, especially as he needs to look to the most effective combination for the coming season. If going with a 5 man midfield, and assuming Davies will receive limited playing time, a player unused to the central midfield role will have to step up. Both Chung-Yong Lee and Chris Eagles look like they could have the skill to translate well into an attacking role, if backed by strong Darren Pratley and Keith Andrews. Another option is relatively untested Joe McKee.
Owen Coyle has been very non-committal with his team choices thus far this season, trying out many combinations, but unless he wants to continue that experimentation into the season, now is the time to make decisions. Coyle spoke on this subject earlier,
"I think we've got a good mix up front now, in terms of different styles. There is no-one better than Kevin [Davies] at leading the line in a front two, and giving the man alongside him the knockdowns and the flicks, and it helps when they can run like the wind as Marvin [Sordell], Benik [Afobe] and David [Ngog] can. We have got such a lot of games this season that it will really help when we can mix and match. So they will all get their chance to impress along the way."
It's true that the squad has a good amount of depth up front, but if it means that the lineup is constantly changing, it still could be bad news for the team. The defense also remains a puzzle. Tim Ream probably deserves a solid place in the centre of defense, but it still remains a bit of a toss up between Matt Mills and Zat Knight.
Over the course of the preseason, I've said many times that the results don't matter, it's about finding the chemistry and the right combination of players to achieve results when they do count. That applies tonight perhaps more than ever, and while a win would be nice, I would just like to see a definite Wanderers lineup come out of this match.