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