Don’t Mess With the Mustache: Gijon – Barça

Liga Preview: Sporting Gijon – Barcelona, Saturday Sunday 2pmEST GolTV

Quick question: if a mime walks through forest alone and Preciado’s mustache jumps out from behind a tree to scare him, how long will the mime be in a coma?

You probably think I’m joking. “It’s just a mustache.” “It’s an old wive’s tale.” Yeah? Something cooked up around campfires and recited with flashlights shining on faces? Hearken back to February 12, 2011, if you have the mental fortitude required to look down the barrel of a loaded gun and not blink. Or ask Mourinho why he sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night screaming “Cojones, tiene cojones como un toro en celo!” His mustache has it’s own mustache, I’m pretty sure.

Last year at the Molinón, we simply weren’t good enough. Barça had over 80% of possession (80!) and managed 6 shots on goal, but were routinely unable to push Gijon back. The rojiblancos used their energy and quick counters to force Barça around and, to make matters all the more intense, their keeper played a wonderful match. They were fierce warriors, willed on by an indomitable mustache that knows no fear, yet is also restrained by prudence.

“I’m neither too cautious nor a complete moron,” Manolo Preciado declared in a press conference this week (“No soy ‘amarrategui‘ pero tampoco gilipollas”), saying that he wouldn’t be growing the Molinón’s grass long, leaving unsaid: “because I’m not an egotistical wank machine whose every word is verbal ipecac for the sane.”

But should one fear Sporting Gijon or just avoid eye contact with The Great Mustache and carry on with the dismantling of their season? They’re 0-1-4, after all and no matter what last year’s scores were (1-0 and 1-1). Last year they played a 4-2-3-1 “sit back and counter” formation that went well with their other strategy of kicking and bludgeoning Barça into submission. All signs point to that being the chosen formation once more: they played it in at least their previous 3 games (according to a quick reading of ESPN tactical formations) and haven’t figured out the goal scoring thing yet (just 2 goals in 5 matches). They’ll want to maintain their solid defensive record at home (3 goals in 3 matches)–incidentally, Real Madrid has allowed more goals at home, and in fewer games, no less–so it strikes me that a 4-2-3-1 will once again be Preciado’s move.

That’s a dangerous trap if it works: Guardiola will want to control the midfield and a disciplined 4-2-3-1 could very well cause problems like Valencia did, though los che played with 5 solidly in the midfield where as Gijon look more likely to use the two holding mids just in front of the back line rather than actually in the center circle pressing that far forward. Given that Iniesta is still not 100%, though he took some part in practice today, the best option would seem to be a more midfield-heavy lineup, with Cesc, Thiago, Messi, and Xavi all fronting Busi and then having Villa or Pedro out wide. This leaves a solid back 4, especially given that Puyol is probably out.

Thus: Valdes, Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Abidal, Busi, Xavi, Thiago, Cesc, Messi, Villa. Because of Cesc’s forward incursions, we won’t lose too much attacking, but will be able to better control the midfield, especially because 2 center backs allows Alves greater freedom on the right. Then again, if Guardiola has little fear of the counter, he could just play a 1-8-1 and be done with it. What would that look like? Probably pretty similar to what we normally, play actually.

Official Prediction: 1-3, Barça wins. I know that’s a little crazy, but we’re playing lights out at the moment, even considering the recent Valencia match. Since then, 10 goals, none allowed and against better opposition. Sure, Gijon is dangerous, but so is Lionel Freakin’ Messi. 2 goals by La Pulga and 1 by substitute Pedro to seal the win late.

Shameless plug: if you’re a fan of nerdy stuff like coding and whatnot, my brother started a new blog and you should probably read it. Especially if you also like booze:

And finally: Apparently Soccernet can’t tell the difference between Barça players (found here)…

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. blitzen
    September 30, 2011

    Harf harf harf! If we still had avatars 👿 I would SO be giving you the mustache right now.

    I am a huge fan of Preciado, and Sporting HeeHaw is the kind of side you can never ever underestimate. But frankly, they are in serious trouble already this season. I think they will play very defensively and try to scrape out a point rather than try for a win.

    • September 30, 2011

      I mean, I agree, but if they sit back and don’t succeed in being quite disciplined enough, they’ll find themselves in a big hole very quickly. Obviously anything can happen, but my prediction goes with my gut instinct.

    • nzm
      October 1, 2011

      Well – this tactic definitely worked well for them last season. I think that the draw against Gijon was the most painful game to watch last season.

      This is where those long overhead passes that the team has been utilising early this season will come in handy to get over the defence.

      Above all, Barca needs to be the team to score first, so that Gijon can’t park their bus as they did last year.

      In the week before each game, Barca TV plays all the previous matches that Barca has played against whoever they’re playing next, so this week has been a Gijon-fest.

      Last night, I watched the first Gijon-Barca game in which Pep was in charge during the 08/09 season.

      Points of interest:
      – 9 out of the starting 11 are still playing at the club (exceptions Marquez and Eto’o)
      – Barca won 6-1
      – Buckets fell over a lot then too. 😀
      – Pep utilised a 3 man back-line – Marquez Puyol Abidal – with Alves roaming up the right flank supporting Eto’o
      – Gijon’s only goal came from their left (when Marquez was too far over to center, and Alves didn’t close down his mark.)

      I love watching these early games of Pep’s – just to see the evolution of his progression with the team.

      • nzm
        October 1, 2011

        Oh yeah – another point:

        – Alves has definitely had an operation to pin back his ears since those days. So sad that a guy had to do this in an attempt to curtail the spectators’ monkey calls.

        I really hope that Preciado manages to keep Gijon in La Liga this season. After all the tragedy in his personal life, (the latest being his father dying earlier this year after being run over), the man deserves some joy.

        • Para
          October 1, 2011

          Was that why? I just thought it was because his ears were particularly sticky-outy. I know someone who had his ears pinned back for that reason.

          • nzm
            October 1, 2011

            Yes – the heckling had something to do with it.

            My brother also had the same op. He was really embarrassed about his ears. I think that he was teased at school about them. His confidence really blossomed once he had them done.

  2. stowe
    September 30, 2011

    when you say 0-1-4 are you saying 1 draw 4 losses? or are you using the american style?
    It will be interesting to see how Barca does against a “typical” Liga line-up where the team packs the midfield and back. I’d agree with your line-up. Makes more sense so that Pep will have at least one offensive sub on the bench (pedro/broken ibi).

  3. BarcaGirl_Indo
    September 30, 2011

    last season Gijon was such a difficult opponent to us..
    0-1 at Camp Nou and 1-1 their home.. we havent won any away liga matches, have we?
    though I looove Preciado and his moustache, I hope your prediction will right, Isaiah!
    Hee Hawn, here we come!

    answering your comment on the last thread, I watched it from TV..
    and I remember correctly at the last minutes, Barça still lead 2-1, I could hear Milan fans sang pretty loud and long, “aleee3x Milan aleee…forza lotta vincerai non ti lasceremomai”
    I said to my dad, “huh, how many Milan fans here?”
    and the commentator who sat at Camp Nou said the same thing..
    but we have different opinion, it doesnt matter..

    and no K_Legit, dont get me wrong…
    I’m not saying Barça fans always like that at CL matches, most of the time they amazed me, in fact they made Wembley like their own home, it’s really really amazing..
    it’s only the one against Milan I felt that..probably because it’s a big match, I expected the crowd louder and ‘crazier’..but I’m sure we’ll have greater support at KO matches..

    • Jim
      October 1, 2011

      Just a pity Spain aren’t taking the Scotland game to the Camp Nou. Then we’d have seen some atmosphere 🙂

  4. barca96
    October 1, 2011

    Soccernet just loves to stir up controversy about us. They obviously wanted people in the comments section to talk about Barca being a bunch of divers and all by putting up their picture. I am pretty sure they are aware of what they’re doing.

  5. culegirl3
    October 1, 2011

    I suppose intelligence is not a requisite if you want to be hired by Soccernet.

  6. mom4
    October 1, 2011

    Heck of a derby so far in Liverpool.

    Cesc out for 3 weeks: 🙁
    BarcaTheOffside Offside Barcelona
    OFFICIAL: during this morning’s training, Cesc Fàbregas suffered a muscle tear and will be out for 3 weeks.

    • K_legit
      October 1, 2011

      Thiago’ll step up and we’ll have Ghost face back next week or no worries as of yet methinks!

    • Ryan
      October 1, 2011

      Howard’s still got it! But ugh, can’t we go a week without an injury? Hoping for an early recovery.

    • blitzen
      October 1, 2011

      I think Alexis is pretty close to coming back as well. No worries. Pep will play a midfield of Xavi Busi Thiago or Xavi Keita Thiago for tomorrow’s game. JDS will probably get a call-up too.

      • October 1, 2011

        Nah. JDS is playing today, so he isn’t allowed to feature for the first team.

  7. Judas Pissed
    October 1, 2011

    WTF!? Cesc injured in training now! Calm down with the training lads we’ll have no players left by Xmas at this rate…

    • PhepheSa
      October 1, 2011

      Could it be that we didn’t have a good preseason and the team is now trying to hard to catch up on fitness. Don’t know what’s going on really. It’s almost the same injury for everyone.

  8. blitzen
    October 1, 2011

    Just a reminder, Barça Babies play the Catalan derby against Sabadell at noon Eastern time. Be there or be…elsewhere.

  9. blaunero
    October 1, 2011

    Fabregas’ injury was predictable but probably not preventable. He had suffered a similar injury in the last two or three seasons with Arsenal. They’re dropping like flies and that is worrying.

  10. Relax guys. Not a bad time to get injured. He is out for three weeks. You guys should remember that next week is international break. So he we will miss him against Racing, Sporting and Viktoria. But against Racing we most probably will have Iniesta back. So it’s the best time to get injured as for me.

    • nzm
      October 1, 2011

      Yup – couldn’t have been timed any better, could it? 😀

    • Blau-Grenade
      October 1, 2011

      It is not such a bad time for the injury to happen to Cesc. Having said that, there is no good time to get an injury. It always affects the confidence of any player.

      • Xingxian
        October 1, 2011

        Even if it doesn’t somehow throw them off mentally (and that’s not a small if) the fact remains that they’re not exactly resting and recuperating… they’re waiting until their bodies are in fighting shape, then heading back into the heat of battle.

        There’s never a best time to get an injury, but thinking about the incoming schedule does remind you it could have been worse.

        *shudder* remember last time we played Atleti and Messi’s ankle got *SCRUNCHED*? I was so worried…

  11. Barcathegreatestever
    October 2, 2011

    I want to see Alves—Masch—Abidal—Adriano in the back. Adriano has been playing great in offense and watching him take turns with Alves going up as a winger would be a kick. Right now Puyol is the best Centerback capable of playing as an right back but if he’s injured…

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