Liga Preview: Granada – Barcelona, 2pm ET (ESPNDeportes and GolTV*)
If you’re a minnow and you beat Villarreal, you can feel pretty good about yourself. Maybe the season won’t be quite so long after all. But if you’re Granada, you realize that it’s your only win of the season and Villarreal is in 16th place in the table. They themselves only have 1 win and it was against Mallorca. Then you consider that your only 2 other points of the season have come at home against Osasuna and Atleti; at least the first match had some goals in it. But goals aren’t really your thing: in 8 matches, you’ve scored just those aforementioned 2 goals , the fewest in the league.
So perhaps you really are in trouble.
And then along comes a ticked off Pep Guardiola. Make no mistake about it, whatever he says in press conferences, which might as well be him staring at a wall for all the information he really gives us, Pep Guardiola is pissed about not winning against Sevilla. So it’s Granada-on-the-rebound time and it’s kind of the perfect match to get your feet back under you and really kick some prostate. If it goes pear shaped here, however, alarm bells will start blazing at unbelievable volume. What if Messi fails to score again? What if Granada doesn’t succumb to a manita like they’re supposed to?
Well then I guess we’re all doomed. I have my bottle of Trauma Reliever right here ready and waiting for the slightest sign that we’re not going to win every single remaining point.
You know what the craziest part of all this is, though? Granada isn’t last in the table! 2 goals for, 10 allowed, and they’re in 18th somehow. Sporting and Racing are somehow worse, though Sporting did just get off the snide and beat, well, yeah, Granada. It was, however, just the 2nd match in which Granada has allowed multiple goals, so I guess that’s something. Here’s another something: the guy who scored the winner against Villarreal was none other than Ikechukwu Uche, the man Granada got on loan from the Yellow Submarine this past summer. Totally rad.
In that match against Villarreal, Granada managed 7 yellow cards (7!), but has only 21 for the whole year, putting them midtable in one category, at least. They also have 0 red cards, putting them with Barça, Atleti, and Levante as the only teams without rojas this year. Barça has 13 yellows, just for comparison.
But they also only have 5 points on the road. 3 matches and no losses but also just 5 goals to 4 allowed. Granada may think they can nip a point by playing the way Sevilla did and perhaps they’re right, but again, Guardiola is going to lay some smackdown in training and in the locker room before sending his boys out. The engine should be powered up, regardless of whether or not it’s purring wonderfully.
The squad: Valdés, Pinto, Dani Alves, Cesc, Xavi, Villa, Iniesta, Messi, Thiago, Mascherano, Keita, Sergio, Pedro, Maxwell, Adriano, Abidal, Fontàs, Montoya, Isaac Cuenca.
Will we get to see Fontàs or will Maxwell start on the left to give Adriano a bit of a breather? With no Puyol or Pique, it strikes me as likely that we’ll see Alves-Mascherano-Abidal-Maxwell. Pique did practice with everyone else while Puyol and Alexis worked out all alone nearby (embedded below), but none of them are fit enough to play so we’ll be a bit scrambly-wambly on defense unless Busi has a monster game, which I expect needs to happen.
What I mean about Busi is that I thought we failed to get ahold of Sevilla because our midfield wasn’t quite running at optimal speed. I don’t care much for Iniesta up front, I have to admit, but I care even less for Keita at DM. It not only means Keita isn’t playing his shutdown roll against any winger silly enough to sally forth from his defensive end, it means that he’s doing the one thing he’s not super totally rad at: creating off the dribble. Yes, Keita is a fantastic midfielder, but he doesn’t facilite Xavi’s maestro thing quite like Busi does. Which is also funny because I really like that Keita is willing to step up and shoot from distance, which Busi simply doesn’t do.
Lineup: Valdes, Alves, Mascherano, Abidal, Maxwell, Busi, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Villa, Messi.
I like Pedro a lot and think he should start, but they still won’t let us play with 12, so I guess he’s going to have to sit until it’s time to sub on and get all crazy out there.
Official Prediction: 0-2, goals by Messi and Cesc. Why bet on anyone other than Messi to get goals? What would be the point?
Drink of choice: Anything with granadadine in it, obviously.
Note: I’ll update this post soon with TV information for here in the US, but feel free to post it in the comments for your location and time.
*Update: the top has been updated with the information, but while the onlines says that both ESPN Deportes and GolTV will show the game, my TV box says only ESPN Deportes will show it. So, I’m not totally sure.