Traveling Time: Viktoria Plzeň – Barça UPDATED

CL Preview: Viktoria Plzeň – Barcelona, 3:45pm ET, Fox Deportes

The first game was a 2-0 at the Camp Nou and now matchday 4 arrives and Barça heads to the Czech Republic to play Viktoria Plzeň at their Stadion města Plzně. Synot Tip Arena in Prague.* The Czechs are coming off a 5-0 home win that moved them into 2nd place; who did they play? The, get this, 13th ranked team (Hradec Králové, of course) in the league. Sure, the Czech top flight only has 16 teams instead of La Liga’s 20, but whatever, I’ll take whatever strange coincidence I can get. This also happened in their match:

Hellooo, Mr. Fancypants! You can view the full match highlights here. Milan Petržela, if you remember, was their speedy winger. He was replaced in the 86th minute as their final substitution. They’re obviously capable of scoring goals, though Barça might be better at defending and controlling tempo than Hradec Králové…and maybe they won’t run into each other like on that second goal. Perhaps Barça will get more butts in the seats too. Lots of crowd shots in this video show you just how empty it was, but also how rabid some of the fans can be.

With Barça’s destruction of Mallorca at the hands of a fairly rampaging Messi (though the crazy thin is it wasn’t that great of a game for him–we’re so spoiled!), the happy times appear to have returned to the Internet-based fan group. Hooray, I suppose, because it means there’s a break in the “What is wrong with Messi?” headlines coming out of every footballing newspaper or website with a dog in the Spanish race. What was wrong with Messi was that he was tired. Perhaps there had been some sort of a Lego-building and cupcake-eating competition he participated in and the sugar was just coursing through his veins and he couldn’t sleep properly. I’m sure he won, though.

Or maybe it’s that we have outsized expectations and we’re all a bunch of nitwits. The Sevilla game was an aberration, really, and the Granada game was an aberration of a different sort. They happen and they’ll continue to happen from time to time. In fact, it’s a minor miracle that they don’t happen more often. We should count ourselves lucky to say “we won 5-0” a single time in a year. Arsenal got destroyed 8-2 by Manchester United and then turned around this past weekend and hung 5 on Chelsea in what looked like an incredibly absurd display of defensive crapitude. Barça hasn’t allowed a goal in 8 full matches. Not since Pablo in the 23rd minute at the Mestalla on September 21.

In that span there have been 3 manitas and a total of 22 goals. The 0-0 draw against Sevilla is the only match Barça failed to score in and they had plenty of opportunities to do so. There was also an 8-0 demolition of Osasuna just prior to the Valencia match. Eight freaking goals. Can you ever speak of crisis or even doldrums when the team is in 3rd and then jumps to 2nd when the top team loses to the team that you beat 8-0? Levante’s loss to Osasuna (down to 10 men for 30 minutes) puts Barça pretty much were every single person guessed they would be around this time: top 2.

In the Champions League, Barça is tied for first in the group. The technicality of who is on top at this point is meaningless to go into because there’s another match against Milan that will end all of the debate anyway. Winning at Viktoria would be a massive step towards qualifying in first place because it would force Milan, who travel to BATE Borisov, to win in order to stay within effective striking distance.

Speaking of which, a quick moment to wish Antonio Cassano the best. I hope he recovers and does so quickly and that this turn of events, which put the sport into perspective, not only doesn’t hurt him and his family more than it already has, but also those around him. According to Gazzetta dello Sport, by the by, it was an ischemic stroke, but my knowledge of medicine is actually worse than my knowledge of Italian, so I won’t even hazard a guess as to what’s going on or how severe that is. Doctors who read this, feel free to explain in the comments.

So, we travel to the Czech Republic and we’re taking Alexis Sánchez with us despite his not being fully fit while Xavi is a serious doubt given his current calf muscle problems. Pedro is still out as well, but Pique and Puyol made successful returns against Mallorca, which was very nice to see.

Predicted lineup: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Iniesta, Thiago, Cesc, Messi, Villa.

Isaac Cuenca has done quite well in the “Pedro role”–should he become Isaac! or should we just keep yelling “feed that boy!” at the screen every time he appears?–but I don’t see him getting the start again given the amount of rest everyone else has had. And Messi doesn’t get rested, so that reduces the options up front. I think a 4-3-3 makes more sense here than a 3-4-3, though any name you give a Pep system doesn’t actually fall into that category for an entire 90 minutes. Alves is constantly in the wrong place for a real 4-3-3 and even a 3-4-3. So, we’re going to be playing um a ?-?-?.

Official Prediction: 1-3. I think we give up a goal on a counter and Valdes’ streak is over.

—–
[UPDATE, continued]
*There were conflicting reports about where the match would take place, but thanks to alert reader nzm, we have the information that the team will be playing at Synot Tip aka Eden. I vaguely recalled something about that while I was writing the post, but then decided to go with what was being listed on a couple of sites I came across. One said Synot Tip (here) while the official site (as of 11pm ET) says “Struncovy, Plzen“. Yet the official site also says this: “The 21 players that have travelled to the Czech capital have trained normally in the stadium to be used for tomorrow evening’s encounter, the Eden Stadium.” Bollocks to you, confusing websites.

On an another interesting note, Xavi can be seen practicing in the video below the quote and in the image gallery here. He looks fine, really, but I still don’t expect to see him start.

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Written by:

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

75 Comments

  1. Eklavya
    October 31, 2011

    Why is the title ‘Travelling Time’ ?

      • Eklavya
        October 31, 2011

        Oh in that sense. I thought there was going to be some time difference due to zones or something.

  2. blitzen
    October 31, 2011

    I like your lineup, although I suspect Pep might start Keita instead of Thiago. Mascherano should definitely be rested. Pique should be OK to play 90 minutes. Puyol to play at least a half, and then maybe some minutes for Fontas? Nah, that’s just crazy talk.

    Right now I’m calling Cuenca “The Slash”, because he’s skinny as, and it rhymes with Flash. 😀

  3. October 31, 2011

    So I guess no one wants to host the liveblog. Match comments post it is!

    (You can still volunteer…*hint, hint*)

    • blitzen
      October 31, 2011

      I would volunteer if I didn’t have to work. Sorry. 🙁

    • Xingxian
      October 31, 2011

      I might not have reliable power/internet 🙁
      lolweather

    • yev
      November 1, 2011

      i wish i could kari, it would be great to learn how one of these things work;

      but i’d have to duck out early, history of the universe and an aranjuez concert to c

  4. Josep
    October 31, 2011

    I thought Pilzen were moved to a bigger stadium for their CL games?

  5. The__K__Man
    October 31, 2011

    So the all mighty Sevilla who held us to 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou have drawn vs Santander 2-2 and just lost to Granada 2-1. Both matches were at Sevilla. So I guess no more SUPER VARAS! Also any hopes I had that they would have a good result vs Madrid have vanished. This makes me mad. 4 goals in 2 matches by very weak teams and Barça couldn’t score 1 friggin’ goal even from the spot!

    It also means we’re the only unbeaten team.

    • Ryan
      October 31, 2011

      Ugh, come on Sevilla… you can’t just cruise after scoring in the 1st minute!

    • jordi™
      October 31, 2011

      Roberto the goalkeeper from Granada had a sensational game saving everything 8).

  6. nzm
    October 31, 2011

    It’s going to be weird cheering for the team NOT wearing blaugrana tomorrow night!

  7. nzm
    October 31, 2011

    That’s a brave call, Isaiah – Thiago instead of Xavi? 😀

    • October 31, 2011

      Renata is correct, up to a point. Xavi has had a calf strain/slight tear and he’s questionable to start. I went with Guardiola being somewhat more cautious given the depth at CM, especially if Alexis is capable of filling a bench spot (meaning Cesc, Iniesta, and Thiago can all vie for 2 spots in the midfield if a sub needs to be made).

      I’ve updated the post to let us all in on this info.

  8. BarcaGirl_Indo
    October 31, 2011

    I like that line up from Isaiah, you know, to see how Busquets – Iniesta – Thiago – Cesc – Messi play without our midfield maestro a.k.a Mr. Mushrooms…

    and I won’t cheer for blaugrana today… Black FTW… 😛

  9. K_legit in Oz
    October 31, 2011

    Just checking in from the land down under..waiting for a home, net connection and TV and other things..once i get a place i can get my Barça dose! 😀

    • November 1, 2011

      You moved already? Naaice. I finally got the placement confirmation for Adelaide today but most likely I’ll be actually moving over there in January. Now just to hand in the visa forms.

      • Helge
        November 1, 2011

        That’s funny, a friend of mine also moves to Adelaide in January, but just for a single semester. Do you go there permanently?

  10. ElJefe
    November 1, 2011

    Is it just me or does Viktoria Plzeň sound like a beer I want to drink? It’s no Estrella Damm, but sounds tasty.

    • November 1, 2011

      Plzeň is the city of Pilsner beer. so you aren’t far from truth.

  11. footballfan
    November 1, 2011

    8 of our players are in the Ballon d’Or shortlist! Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Alves, Pique, Fabregas and Abi 😀 Busi is not included though 🙁

    EE has 5: Casillas, Xabi Alonso, Ronaldo, Benzema and Ozil.

  12. pr17
    November 1, 2011

    some thoughts.. their original stadia in plzen has capacity of only 8000. So maybe they moved to prague stadia for their biggest game.

    Ozil made some dork comments about handing over ballon d’or to casillas (interesting thing is he didnt mention ronaldo). but casillas over messi???

    Hope cuenca starts, maschete and pique start as CBs, alexis gets some minutes, valdes gets a clean sheet and messi scores a hat trick. And the usual request to pep – No keita please (the bugger shud get injured of all people and then be shunted to African Cup of Nations)

    • mom4
      November 1, 2011

      You said that about Keita after complaining about Ozil’s “dork” comments? Really?

    • blitzen
      November 1, 2011

      That’s disgusting. I have seriously had enough of your trolling.

      • pr17
        November 1, 2011

        cmon blitzen mate..it is a personal opinion about some players (like my fav villa was hounded last season)///
        i do not find keita optimal for starting lineup and sometimes the ribbing is on the light hearted side (like today’s match which has low significance). in fact this keita not being optimal has been endorsed by a few experts like s.lowe

        doesnt mean i am trolling (quite a grave charge). There is always a decent way to publish one’s opinion. I may not find your blitzen awards funny but would rather remain silent than accuse you of something

        • blitzen
          November 1, 2011

          Sorry, but “the bugger should get injured” is neither light-hearted nor funny. It is frankly indecent.

          And that’s all I have to say about that.

        • November 1, 2011

          “experts like s.lowe”? You made my day 😀

          Still no comment on the comment. I just felt that remark too funny to skip.

          • mom4
            November 1, 2011

            Because Pep wouldn’t be considered an expert. 🙂

        • nzm
          November 1, 2011

          I’d invite you to watch the Mallorca game again, and just concentrate on Keita and his movements and contribution.

          That’s what Pep sees in Keita, and what we should also be recognising in him – if we already aren’t seeing this. (Thankfully, most people who truly watch Keita know his worth.)

          As for your “injury” comment – how mature are you to make such asinine remarks? You can intelligently critique a player all you want, but stating a desire to see him injured is just sick.

        • mom4
          November 1, 2011

          There is always a decent way to publish one’s opinion. Then use a decent way!

          Much of the reason that a lot of us follow this blog is because it is largely devoid of the hate that is on other blogs. Try reading an ESPN Soccernet comment thread and you’ll see what I mean.
          Wishing injury on any player, even if it be an EE player, is not funny, not light-hearted, and never appropriate or in good taste.
          Keita at DM (for us) is far from ideal, but I’m glad he has been afforded the experience this year and is ready to be a 3rd-choice DM should we need him (and we probably will). And there are games, and times at the end of games that just cry out for Keita’s physical abilities. He would be a starter as a box to box middy or as a DM on most teams in this world and those teams would be grateful to have him.
          WE ARE GOING TO MISS HIM WHEN HE’S AWAY AT THE AFRICAN CUP!!!

          • pr17
            November 1, 2011

            Apologies on that front..never meant it to be a serious wish as you can see that it was the last item on the agenda and that it was in brackets.
            Well, on Pep being an expert and all, he does make mistakes sometimes and we are indeed lucky that he rectifies his mistakes at halftime or in the next match 95% of the time (getting caught out by repeat of last year’s tactics against valencia is one that comes to mind-was naive of pep there. He does have his favs and keita is one of them for sure.

            I have nothing against Keita apart from fact that he shouldnt start as DM or AM in key matches. Ok with him against Mallorca and even today’s match. I for one would have promoted Romeu instead of having keita as backup for DM or AM position this season with an eye on the future and got some few bucks on keita. But this is entirely my view.

          • November 1, 2011

            So, if Pep rectifies his mistake almost immediately, what does that say about a player that he regards as his ‘little angel’ and has played 3+ years for him?

            And if he has his ‘favs’, why doesn’t he play them all the time?

          • BarcaOwl
            November 1, 2011

            Alrighty then, pr17. If things in brackets are not meant to be a serious wish, how about this?

            (I do hope you get run over by a truck with faulty brakes.)

        • November 1, 2011

          ‘There is always a decent way to publish one’s opinion’

          ‘the bugger shud get injured of all people’

          You sir, have no clue..

          • pr17
            November 1, 2011

            Vj- I have clarified on the injury part. On keitaism, You might be another who fancy keita as a good player and maybe it hurts to get a negative opinion.

            I felt the same last year with Villa and exceedingly bad ratings kxevin handed out to him even when he scored and made a difference. Somebody published avg of ratings handed out by kevin and he did indeed handout low ratings to villa which was staggering.

          • November 1, 2011

            I have no problem with you not rating Keita. Doing so without a proper case, and at the same time calling Kxevin biased, seems to me like a strong case of pot calling kettle black..

          • November 1, 2011

            Let’s let this one lie, folks. I am leaving the original comment because sometimes, things need to sit to remind us of how things shouldn’t be.

            pr17, if you wish to continue commenting in this space, please understand the unspoken “rules” here. Simple as that.

            This space shouldn’t require the kind of moderation that other spaces do. That is the beauty of it. None of the mods have time for that. Please don’t make us have to find the time.

          • Eklavya
            November 1, 2011

            Let’s let this one lie, folks. Yup.

  13. Jafri
    November 1, 2011

    An ischemic stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted and can be caused by a number of factors (drugs/smoking/injury to neck blood vessels), but it’s rather uncommon in young people… And it can lead to permanent damage if it’s not caught immediately, leading to problems like not being able to talk or move properly. I really hope that’s not what happened to Cassano.

    • Helge
      November 1, 2011

      That sounds pretty much like the ‘standard’ stroke, or an apoplexia. Where is the difference?

      • Calvin
        November 1, 2011

        Apoplexy is sort of an outdated term for a stroke – it’s not commonly used anymore.

        The issue with a stroke is it’s presentation and long term consequences depend a lot on where it took places (what areas of the brain were deprived of oxygen) and for how long it took place.

        I haven’t delved too deep into the Cassano case, but his representative said he seems like his normal self and people are saying he recovered well.

        There is a possibility he had a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), which is essentially a stroke that spontaneously resolves within 24 hours (usually within a couple hours). They are often caused by blockage of the arteries in the brain – but a lot of the time they leave the person with no noticeable deficits.

        • November 1, 2011

          In such case, will there be any long term precaution, like quitting professional sport?

          • Megster
            November 1, 2011

            I think he has to quit. Most of TIA’s are precursor to stroke. He should be evaluated properly to know the underlying cause of his TIA.

          • Calvin
            November 1, 2011

            That depends on a lot of factors. I don’t know that it was a TIA (although the evidence I’ve seen sort of points that direction), and megster said, a lot would depend on the underlying condition.

            However, I doubt he will have to quit professional sport. It shouldn’t be too hard to address the underlying problem, and I bet we see him on the field in less than a month.

        • Helge
          November 1, 2011

          Ah, thanks for clarifying. I was using an online dictionary to look for the English word for ‘Schlaganfall’, and the first result was ‘apoplexy’. Probably only the doctors still use it.

          All the best for Cassano.

  14. barca96
    November 1, 2011

    Pr17, you may dislike him as much as you want, but to wish something like that on another human being is just plain sick.

    He may not be the best DM for us. We all here know that but there us absolutely no need to say or even think of something like that. What has he
    ever done to you in person. He’s just doing job as best as he can. He has a family to feed. C’mon man…Take
    A
    Minute to reflect on what you’ve
    Said earlier and tell me whether you regretted it or not.

    • barca96
      November 1, 2011

      And I do think we need him on midfield for such a tough away trip. In this match I’d start Him over Thiago in 3 man midfield. Busi-keita-iniesta. But taking into account pedro’s injury, I think pep will put iniesta in the wing and Cesc in midfield. Iprwfer vice versatile though; villa-Cesc-Messi up top.

  15. blitzen
    November 1, 2011

    Barça starting XI (v Viktoria Plzen): VV, Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Thiago, Cesc, Adriano, Cuenca and Messi.

    Bench: Pinto, Maxwell, Mascherano, Keita, Xavi, Iniesta & Alexis

    Whut? Iniesta not starting? Adriano as a winger? Fontas didn’t make the bench again? VILLA DIDN’T MAKE THE BENCH?

    Pep what are you doing to me???

    • November 1, 2011

      It’s the Kxevin Influence. You know how much I hate Villa (muhahahahahaaaaaa!)

      Looks like Adriano will be marauding as a left winger, with the first-choice back line of Alves/Pique/Puyol/Abidal. Full-width approach again. And Cuenca’s starting (again). He’s earned it, I say.

    • blitzen
      November 1, 2011

      I am laughing at this line-up. I mean, it’s a good line-up, no problem with that, but Pep will never stop surprising me. Villa did need a rest, to be honest, but I would have expected him on the bench at least. No idea why Iniesta isn’t starting, but I’m quite happy with this midfield.

      Isaac “The Slash” Cuenca must be feeling like a million bucks, I mean Euros, right about now. Or terrified. Or both.

  16. culegirl3
    November 1, 2011

    I’m feeling mighty optimistic with this line-up! If only Alexis could be a starter instead of a bench warmer.

    Poor Fontas! I’m starting to suspect he only was promoted to fill up some unspoken Catalan player quota for Barca.

    • blitzen
      November 1, 2011

      I am assuming that Pep plans to make Fontas first-choice starter in the Copa games, but he should be making sure he gets some minutes now to keep game-ready. I hope he doesn’t end up as another Bojan. 🙁

      • culegirl3
        November 1, 2011

        Yeah, he probably will be a starter for some of the CDR games..at least the one’s with the “lesser” opponents.

        It’s kind of hard for him to get a spot when you have Pique, Puyol, Masch, AND Abidal ahead of you. But he knew what he was getting himself into and I’m sure he knows that if he feels like his talent is wasting away, he could find other options outside of Barca.

    • culegirl3
      November 1, 2011

      Crazy right?! That was an intense game IMO.

    • nzm
      November 1, 2011

      Made me wonder if Milan was really playing – certainly their shots in the second half were nowhere near going in.

      • November 1, 2011

        It wasn’t televised up this way. I think you always want to top the group though, right?

        • nzm
          November 1, 2011

          Yes – topping the group was the only thing that got in the way of me thinking “fix”.

          They really lost focus in the second half. It didn’t help that they tried to send most of the opportunities to Ibra, who fluffed them all except for his first half goal.

  17. Helge
    November 1, 2011

    I’m actually glad that Villa is not even on the bench.

    Hope it will make him think about WHY (and then find a solution to it) he is left out of the squad!

    • blitzen
      November 1, 2011

      Because he is tired and Pep said he played with a little discomfort last game. Alexis is fit and raring to go, so why not give him the bench spot?

  18. Miguel
    November 1, 2011

    Alright! Fox Deportes is showing the match! Why aren’t you in HD yet?

  19. November 1, 2011

    There’s a match comments post up for your further discussions. Thanks.

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