Every single year, a new star player magically appears at Barcelona, or at least it seems that way to the general public. In reality, La Masia is a player factory, and at any given time, there are a lot of good players in Barcelona's B, C and Under-19 teams. Unless you're a hardcore Cule who spends a lot of time keeping up on the B team, you were probably unfamiliar with Isaac Cuenca until he appeared for Barcelona's first team this season.
Cuenca's last start was two weeks ago against Getafe -- a game in which he recorded an assist -- and he played 45 minutes last week against Levante. He's much more of a true wide player than any of the regular starters for the Blaugrana and he's proven that he can play against top competition, so Pep Guardiola shouldn't have any reservations about putting him into the lineup if he thinks a true wide player is what he needs to exploit Real Madrid's weaknesses.
In Sanchez' absence, I would love to see a start for Isaac Cuenca in a bid to stretch a Madrid defense that will almost certainly try to narrow the field. Whether he drags Marcelo out wide (the Brazilian does have a tendency to wander after all) or Arbeloa does not matter, so long as that defense is stretched, we can be happy. Not only that, but Cuenca's turn of pace and subsequent delivery could create chances not dissimilar to Messi's goal last season in the UCL, assisted by Ibrahim Afellay. In that sense, Cuenca is a unique player as he can stretch any defense with just a few yards to play with, and create chaos with his final pass, a skill that might be indispensible against a deep-lying Madrid side.
Without Sanchez and David Villa at his disposal, it will be interesting to see if Guardiola opts for Cuenca or some other option in his front three.
We'll have pre-game and live game coverage in our Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, 2012 El Clasico StoryStream. For more on the two teams, head over to Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid and FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes.