Liga Preview: Barcelona – Rayo Vallecano, Tuesday 3pmET, ESPN Deportes/ESPN3.com
I’ve been away from the Barça world for a few days. Returning to it (and New York) after a Thanksgiving in the boonies of Washington DC, I feel a bit removed from all the gnashing of teeth and end-of-the-world proclamations I’ve scanned through on Twitter. I haven’t read the comments here, which is probably too bad since they’re usually insightful and entertaining, so perhaps I’m wrong as to the general consensus about the season’s final trophy tally, but I’ve heard it’s between 0 and negative 30. They’ll take away our trophies! They’ll let Segio Ramos run them all over with a bus!
First SoMa and then Euler came out with fantastic posts about the Getafe match, whose first 20 minutes I missed due to lunch at a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant in Falls Church. Sup, Huong Viet! Not being familiar with the geography of the DC metro area, I have to say I was fascinated by 7 Corners and its, well, uh, 7 corners. Who designs roads like that and why? We followed up our lunch with these delicious pupusas salvadoreñas from a food truck sitting in Home Depot’s parking lot, so by the time I got around to finding a working stream of the match, I was not only full, I was verging on a food coma. I think that might be why I was less inclined to anger or frustration throughout an anger and frustration inducing match. Either that or I’m mellowing dramatically in my old age.
Whatever, I’m more saddened by losses than filled with anger, though that’s probably not true were we to lose a major match to the likes of Moudrid. Still, it was Getafe and while those are winnable games, I think perspective allows the team to lose now and then regardless of what another team is doing. As I mentioned on Twitter, however, it seemed the team was somewhat uninterested in the match until the final few minutes when they were galvanized by a couple of tactical switches. Suddenly there was intent, there was movement, and Messi banged one off the far post when I thought he’d rescued a point for sure.
I bring this up not to point out how badly the team played, but rather to point out that they got it going in the last few minutes. I think that intent and that desire will carry over into the match against Rayo, the team’s game in hand over everyone else and one that, I think, will allow the pundits and fans alike to stop wearing their fingers to the bone trying to produce obituaries for El Pep Team. The gap at the top is 6 points, yes, but if you think about it as just 6 points instead of holy crap 6 whole points, you can feel more comfortable leaving your defibrillator at home when you go to work.
But what makes me so optimistic at such a dreary time of the year? First, the sun has been shining and it’s been over 60 degrees every day this Thanksgiving weekend. It’s either a sign to keep my knickers untwisted or it’s a sign of the apocalypse. Either way, I should relax about Barça’s results because if we’re going to go through a Rapture sometime soon, perhaps I should be spending time with my parents. Though, then again, if this is the last I’m going to see of Barça…to the BFB mobile! Time to head to the Camp Nou to scream obscenities at Rayo! They’re from the capital, after all.
Their squad: Cobeño, Tito, Casado, Delibasic, Movilla, Rafa García, Piti, Dani, Arribas, Javi Fuego, Míchel, Lass, Botelho, Jordi, Sueliton, Michu, Labaka, Tamudo, Pacheco.
The team is very middle of the road. They’re 10th in the league with 16 points, hanging out in the mid-table doldrums alongside Atleti and Villarreal. It may seem like they’re punching above their weight, but their record 4W-4D-5L (15GF, 15GA) suggests they’re pretty much exactly where they should be. Away from home they’re 2W-3D-2L (7GF, 10GA), which is about par as well. It’s just that those 2 wins were at Getafe and Betis–only perhaps now isn’t the time to point out where Getafe sits in the table and how such a result suggests that maybe Rayo isn’t so great. They lost at Villarreal 2-0 as well and are just coming off a 2-1 loss at home to Valencia.
Incidentally, that victory by Los Che actually puts them 1 point behind Barça (27 to 28). Not an unheard of amount to overtake someone, though Sport and MD would probably have you believe otherwise were Moudrid behind los angeles del Camp Nou by exactly that much. Whatever, it’s forward we look, not backwards at the nether regions of the league (that’d be 20th-3rd place, of course).
If there’s one person who is taking this visit to the Camp Nou more seriously than other Rayo players, it’s got to be Raul Tamudo. He knows he could heap horrible things on the people of la ciudad condal, like he’s done in the past. Not that we talk about that around these parts. The consternation it evokes is enough to destroy the earth. Talk about a crisis!
So it’s up to the squad to rebound, to come back with the verve and movement that has characterized the last 3 years of utterly wonderful football. Yet fans should also maintain a bit of perspective: Numancia, Inter Milan, Hércules, Atletico Madrid. These are our reminders that hyperbolic attacks on particular players are often misguided and even more often merely show our lack of knowledge on the subject at hand. We may claim to have blogged about it for 5 years (has it been so long?) or followed it for half a century, but it doesn’t much matter if we’ve failed to gain a measure of perspective. As one life-long member told me two years ago during Hlebruary, “It doesn’t matter whether we win or lose this match; it’s nothing like it was before.” Before. Before Laporta, before Messi, before Rijkaard and the little maestro named Xavi appearing on the scene. And that was two years ago, before the quadruple clásicos destroyed the sport and wrecked my soul for a good long while.
Rayo. We’re talking about Rayo. There’s good news and there’s great news. The good news is that both Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas are back in training and are available for the match. That should help this whole idea of “directness” –but weren’t we worried about width?—and also relieve some of the minutes being played by other squad members. And no, that’s not the great news.
The great news is that Tito Vilanova has been released from the hospital to continue his recuperation at home. This is fantastic. Far more important than a single match or even a full season. A lifetime of seasons pale in comparison, in fact. And don’t you forget it! What Abidal went through last year was testament to this view and what Tito is going through, regardless of how serious or meaningless it may turn out to be later, is another example of life being so much bigger than sport.
Certainly, welcome back Iniesta and Cesc. We’re happy to have you in the lineup again. Please don’t get injured ever again. I don’t care for it, so cut it out of your schedule. You shall remain healthy until you retire at the ripe old age of 35. Both of you, in fact. Messi has already agreed to this plan, so you might as well join up too. And bring Carles with you, if you wouldn’t mind. Except he has to stay until he’s 40 because, damn, he’s capi.
Lineup prediction: Valdes, Alves, Mascherano, Puyol, Abidal, Keita, Thiago, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro
Dunno why I think Villa gets dropped, but I do. And despite wanting Messi to have a break, I don’ see that ever happening until he’s ground himself to a find powder and is physically incapable of getting off the team bus. Hopefully that’s further away than nature typically dictates, so maybe we should all just enjoy his breathtaking runs while we can.
Official Prediction: 2-0, goals by Messi and Pedro.
Remember, we’ll have a game in hand going into the Clásico, so if we can put 6 points on the board, we’ll only be 3 behind at the time and tied going out of it if we can win. Just don’t forget to mark Tamudo out of the game. For all 90 minutes.
Liveblog: are you interested in running the BFB liveblog? It’s super easy. Just respond here or email and if you’ve never done it, I’ll send you the info you need. Woohoo!