A Return of Preview Proportions: Barça – Atleti

Liga Preview: Barcelona – Atletico Madrid, Saturday 4pmEST

Apparently the people in Spain didn’t get the memo: they weren’t supposed to play any futbol while I was on vacation. Someone read it, I guess, since they had a little strike and now I get to see us take on Málaga instead of missing that potentially awesome match. What, are we going to sign Cesc Fabregas or something too!? Oh, we did? Well, I’m sure he’s having trouble adapting–oh? Really? Lots of goals and assists? Covering well for an injured Iniesta? Hot damn. Well Alexis Sanchez must be burning down the house–injured? Christ.

I know its blurry, but here’s what I learned about Barça while in Southeast Asia: even the rumored jerseys are actually produced in Vietnam. A few minutes later, I saw a teal version of this sort of the color of the mint away jersey, but couldn’t snap a picture. And whenever you wear your real jersey, as I did a couple of times, you get people yelling “Barcelona!” at you on the street and when you smile or respond in anyway, they say, with a thumbs up, “Messi!” Responding, “Xavi!” just illicits blank stares from the vast majority, unfortunately.

And now I’m jumping right back into the swing of things, defeating jetlag by reading about Barça and trying to wrap my mind around everything that has happened. Apologies if I say something completely incorrect because I haven’t watched everything progress.

I missed, for instance, when Pique was injured for all eternity. I knew Puyol was out for a while, of course, but Gerard’s absence has probably been felt quite a lot. Or maybe not. I also missed my Oklahoma Sooners pounding out a win against Luke’s Florida State Seminoles. I’m sorry not to have brought you a play-by-play of FSU’s newly rekindled hope being mercilessly crushed in a hail of Landry Jones touchdown passes. My sincere apologies.

My return also coincided with the end of Ibrahim Afellay’s involvement with the team thanks to an ACL tear in his left knee during training on Thursday. Yowch. Couple that with Sanchez being sidelined, Iniesta on dry dock, and Pique still recovering and we have some concerns to consider. Yet we’re also likely to start something like 42 World Cup winner and Lionel Messi.

Despite the 2 goals allowed against Valencia, having Puyol back is a huge boost to the team and we have less to worry about (though we had precious little anyway). Yes, Radomel Falcao is a beast in the air and it would behoove Atleti to attack us that way, but they’ll need to the ball to do so and unless Diego makes his return (he’s in the squad list), they might find possession difficult.

Part of me wants to respect Atleti like I do Valencia, especially considering Falcao’s presence and my reverence for Gregorio Manzano, but without Forlan, Aguero, and de Gea, I’m a bit leery of being big on them. They’ve got Arda Turan and Diego in the middle now and Jose Antonio Reyes is still capable of the occasional brilliance, but I do not have the same sense of looming disaster as I did whenever we lined up against Kun.

Perhaps I should be worried. They’re only a point behind us in the table (7 to our 8) and they’ve scored 4 goals in each of their last 2 games. The thing is, 3 of their first 4 games have been at home and now they visit the Camp Nou. They’ve been to the Mestalla and lost 1-0 and they were held 0-0 at the Calderon by Osasuna, who Barça beat 8-0. So it’s sort of up in the air, if you look at it that way, but Barça will be looking to exact a measure of revenge on the world for dropping more points in midweek. Then again, Atleti has allowed just 1 goals over 4 games (the 1-0 loss to Valencia) while Barça has allowed 4 (2 in the draws against Sociedad and Valencia). So there’s that.

Atleti’s squad list: Courtois, Asenjo, Antonio López, Domínguez, Filipe, Godín, Miranda, Perea, Arda, Diego, Gabi, Juanfran, Koke, Mario, Reyes, Salvio, Tiago, Adrián, Falcao.

The list is solid, if not particularly exceptional. Our own squad list is exceptional from top to bottom, but that alone ensures nothing whatsoever. The team appears to be playing well, but is having a couple of organizational problems stemming, if I may be so bold as to step on Euler’s analytical territory, from a lack of patience in the back line. Several times against Valencia, Mascherano and Puyol both went for the same player in an attempt to make up for Alves’ high positioning. In those instances, they vacated middle positions that only Abidal was available to cover because Busi was lackadaisical or, more often, completely lost on who to cover while Keita was busying himself covering people that Busi wasn’t covering. All that combined to leave a man open on the back post pretty much every time Valencia went forward. Easy giveaways in midfield obviously compounded that (and meant that Busi and Keita were faced with 3 or more players to defend), but regardless, there was a general panicky approach from the CBs (who were sort of RB and CB in a 3-4-3 whenever Alves was upfield).

Okay, that probably made little sense, but it will have to stand as it goes with my next point: Thiago’s inclusion was a big turning point and allowed for more possession in midfield. Starting him in place of Keita reduces the defensive qualities of the team, but increases the attacking capability and the quality of possession. By that I mean the possession is more dangerous and more likely to create chances because it is actually more under control. So my suggested lineup:

Valdes, Alves, Mascherano, Puyol, Abidal, Busi, Xavi, Thiago, Cesc, Messi, Pedro.

I’m not a huge fan of putting Villa on the bench again, but I don’t fully trust Thiago, like I would if it were Iniesta, in which case I would bench both Thiago and Cesc for Villa. That may be a consequence of having not seen the matches Cesc has played in, of course–he’s still unproven to me since, well, I have only seen him play once–but it’s a moot point given the injuries. Hopefully we’re just getting those out of the way now.

Official Prediction: 2-0, goals by Messi and Cesc. Cause, well, they’ve scored basically all of the other ones, so why not these as well?

Now, I don’t speak Thai, so maybe someone can tell me if this really is the greatest, latest jersey ever, or just the kid’s name and not Cesc or Fabregas:

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.


  1. Ah nah, big Isaiah dawg, back up in the heezee, baby!

    Like I said in the last post like two seconds ago, “this Atleti is not pateti.” I want to say their draw with Osasuna was their first game of the season and a couple of their new players didn’t start the game. Same with Valencia. The Bats were lucky to hold on to their win in the second half as Diego made his debut and completely ran shit. Since then they’ve won everything. Their whole mentality has changed. Their pressing game is pretty good and their passing is off the hook. This weekend’s match will be all about possession. That said, I hope Busi starts in midfield. I’m excited.

  2. I think you are underestimating Atletico Madrid a tad. Before, Atleti were only capable of short bursts of brilliance, and the rest of the time they were awful. I think they have a lot more stability now, and we can’t expect the 6-0 results against them anymore. Also, while Falcao doesn’t have Aguero’s dribbling skills, he is even more of a goal threat, and he has exactly the skills he needs to expose the current weak spots in our defense. Pique has been given his medical green light, I would risk starting him, then subbing him off near the 65th minute.

    Xavi-Busquets-Thiago (he really helped against Valencia, I think he deserves it)

  3. I don’t know if Pep will risk the 3-4-3 formation against a team that has 2 very good wingers like Reyes and Arda Turan but we’ll see.
    I just want to see a clean sheet. We have been on the receiving end of too many goals this season, it’s got to stop.

    1. I can’t even take pleasure anymore in watching fail after fail with this guy. Seriously what’s happened to him?

  4. Isaiah, glad to have you back!

    in Southeast Asia, original jerseys are considered as luxury stuff.. I’ve never seen or touched it in my life..
    here, if someone have an original jersey, they don’t wear it, they’d give it a frame and put it on wall, lol 😀
    for a decent quality we buy jerseys produced from Thailand..

    and for tomorrow’s game, since Piqué has received medical green light, I think he’ll play..his aerial strength will help us..

    1. What Nanda said. Official jerseys are considered like super luxury stuff. I’ve seen some jerseys in a store that were for about $100 USD but I don’t even know if they were official or just high-end-replicas. I didn’t really see them properly and have never seen an official jersey to compare with so I don’t know if the fabric and stuff were like the official jerseys. Then there are middle-end replicas in normal stores and cheap replicas which you can get for not that much, where the colors are the same but they’re really uncomfortable and feel like some kind of weird plastic thing like the jerseys kids on the street play football in which you get for a few bucks.

  5. I thought we loaned you out to Sporting Gijon, Isaiah. Did they not want you either? 😛

    Welcome back! Can’t wait to see the game tomorrow.

  6. If I can get my lazy arse up early enough, I’ll be Livebloging both the B-team and the first team’s game tomorrow.

    For those unaware, Barca B play Recreativo (I remember them) at home at 12pm EST. As the preview above says, first team plays at 4pm.

  7. Nice Isaiah. Did you visit Hanoi or HCMC? There was this one time when I was still in HCMC I saw a western guy riding a bike with Barcelona’s logo on the left side of his bike and Madrid’s logo on the right. He sure had weird taste in football.

  8. It seems to me Atletico always gives their best against us. I don’t see it being any different tomorrow.

  9. Isiah! Are you the guy who writes the Barca blog on Suckernet?

    I think we gotta be even more weary of Atletico this season. For once I don’t think this is just the “usual hype” surrounding them before the season until they have their annual mental breakdowns. I actually think they mean business this season.

    I have always been afraid of Falcao, although he’s a bit less scary with his huge sidekick Hulk still at Porto :/ But he’s still one to keep under control. The guy can score a goal from outta nowhere. And I love a big competitive game but I’d prefer for Diego to stay sidelined for one more game 🙂 Apart from the new additions and them seemingly starting to “click,” Atletico ALWAYS played us the hardest in years past. They may be shit in the game prior to us then all the sudden they’re world class playing us.

    That said, I say we can still win. I would hope Pep goes back to starting 4-3-3, even if just for the first half, just for stability (and for my sanity).

    P.S Where’s the love for Ibi? Am I the only one bummed for him and that almost career-threatening injury? #AnimsIbi

    1. And yes, that is our very own Isaiah. Good thing he has a fallback, since I can’t imagine that Gijon will give him a lot to write about, except for crying in various types of beer, and which Segunda side they will be battling with next season.

      But he IS married, so at least he has company now as he wallows.

  10. Assembly vote on sponsorship deal is today. Supposed to be live via BarcaTV at fcbarcelona.cat. Also will be constant updates on Twitter, for those who follow any of the official club streams, such as @fcbarcelona.cat.

    You can also set up a search for #fcbsocis which will give you the goods. The other issue is rather a more contentious one, by the by. There is a proposed “youth section” Grada Jova, that is considered by many to be a way for the Boixos Nois to find their way back into the Camp Nou.

    1. Do you have a link to anything that explains the proposed youth section? I’ve heard about it in vague terms, but nothing specific.

  11. Euler is really making waves,he’s the einstein of tactical dissertation,i just logged in to EE BLOG and read some of their comment about how great euler is in tactics…though K7(KXEVIN) remains my best here

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