Welcome Back, Glorious Football: Barcelona vs Osasuna [Update]

4pm EST; ESPN 3 and ESPN Deportes in the US; GolTVCanada for the Canadiens.

Like Xavi, I believe Barca and football are synonymous and so when Barca comes back, football returns as well. Of course it’s ‘only’ the Copa, but that’s still a trophy up for grabs and had we won it last season, we’d have done the Sextuple again. Just look at the faces of our players after we lost the final and tell me it doesn’t matter [MD via @IBES16 on Twitter]

…Moving on, we face the Pandiani-less Osasuna at Camp Nou. [The tickets are only 9 Euros by the way. Well, the starting price anyway]. They are fierce, they are Basque, they are… fifth in the league?

Unbeaten at home, only three losses in the season [to, surprise surprise, Barca, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao – all away from home] Jose Mendilibar’s Osasuna isn’t one to be taken lightly. It’s a well drilled team. Sure, they’ve conceded seven more goals [28] than they have scored [21] but one should take account the 8-0 annihilation we inflicted on them at the end of September and 7-1 demolition at the hands of The Evil Empire in November.

Since that game against the Whites, they’ve gone unbeaten, beating those Pericos away from home, a (sadly) woeful Villarreal and Real Betis at home, all by the same 2-1 scoreline, and draws with Rayo and Malaga.

Their results in the league so far: 16 games played, 6 wins, 7 draws, 3 losses.

As mentioned before, we’ve beaten them 8-0 the last time we met at home, but that was then and this is now. January has always been a difficult month and we’ll need to put them away as quick as possible because Pamplona is a terrible place to go, especially going there needing a win. Those fans are vicious, man. Osasuna are aware that this is a two legged tie and will most likely be playing to get a good result – ie. A draw, of course a win would be even better – so they take the game to us in front of their fans.

So we’ll have to be sharp. They don’t score much, but they concede very many either. And you can bet Miguel Flano will be looking to get knee deep in some Catalan booty, so to speak.

 Their dangerous players in my book:

– The centre back and captain Miguel Flano: see above.

– The Iranian Nekounam. He’s got a good eye for a pass, and can cause some problems if given enough space. Busi should stick to him like a real ugly, really tall fungus. He’s world-class at that. And I mean that in the most complementary way possible. Of course.

Dejan Lekic may have only scored 2 goals since joining the Basque outfit in 2010, but at 6’4’’ he’s one big hombre. And that’s always bad. Because even though our team is full of skillful midgets from hell, we’re still midgets nonetheless. I fully expected him to be marked by Puyol anyway. That is, if he plays. That seems unlikely because of:

Ibrahima. He’s young and tall. He’s also very skillful, given that he spent half his career in Argentina. Of course, the man’s also scored five goals in 12 appearances this season. And an assist. That’s a lot. Five more than half his teammates, actually. What a beast.

Juan Francisco Martinez Modesto. (…I wasn’t sure what to call him). Anyway, he’s played the most minutes out of the Osasuna forward [1251 min out of a possible 1462]. That obviously means he’s scoring a bajillion goals a minute. And by that, I mean three.

Of course Pep understands the importance of this tie as well, saying in his presser today:

“[Osasuna] are a demanding side. They come at you. We have to play well and quick or the tie will be a difficult one.

“Mendilíbar is ambitious, and that’s why his daring team are fifth with 25 points. They’ll clearly be coming here looking to win the tie, and by doing that Osasuna will help us get back into competitive football … we are going to have to attack well and create lots of goalscoring chances”.

On the 8-0 massacre: “That was a long time ago, and a result like that will be added motivation for them. The situation has changed. This is a 180 minute match and we have to try to get a good result.”

In some great news, Iniesta’s coming back a bit earlier than expected. He trained for the first time Monday and completed all the exercises. According to the Pepster, he’s “fine” and can play for a little while, though “it’s a bit early for him to play the whole 90 minutes.”

That should mean he’s fit for Sunday’s game against the Pericos. Oh yes.

Leo Messi’s come back from Argentina in good condition. As to whether he’ll play tomorrow, Pep gives a sly smile and says he’ll decide tomorrow. Expect him to play some part. [UPDATE]: Or not. He’s been struck down with a flu, VV as well (not that he’d have played anyway).

Other than than the aforementioned duo, Villa and Ibi Afellay, we have a full squad. Including Tito.

Official Prediction: Goals, madness, Dani Alves having a crossing contest with Cuenca, a Xavi assist to an assist, Thiago getting stuck in, Cuenca beating defenders with his Adam’s apple, Pep pulling out what remains of his glorious hair when 4-0 up and comfortable. And a Leo Messi goal.

On the transfer front: Hleb is chilling out in Germany with a personal trainer sayeth Mundo Deportivo.

We should send him to Arsenal. I mean, they’re willing to take Henry back on a two month loan, why can’t they take Hleb for, uh, ever? We’ll even pay them to take him. In Masia players. And they love taking our youth players. We’ll give them Carmona. And Armando. With no Bojanesque buy backs.

I mean, just look at how happy this guy was to get Hleb. On loan.

Speaking of buy backs… I give you an excerpt of the Barca alphabet I’ll finish someday:

O is for Oriol

Got sold to English giants Chelsea,

To gain some first team minutes,

And it’s all working out quite nicely.

Oh, he’s a real jewel!

Passes better than seven Gareth Barrys,

And never loses a one on one duel!

Chelsea fans are enamoured

With the bald teenaged Spaniard.

As he gains a regular place,

Cules all sit and wait

For the inevitable Romeugate.

On Soriano’s potential promotion: we all know that once he’s promoted he can’t go back to the B-team. The thing is, as they are now, our reserve team is really struggling for goals. Soriano is one of the rare experienced twentysomethings in the team who isn’t completely useless. His leadership is invaluable.

That being said, his attitude is impeccable. He’s extremely grateful to the club, because just when he thought he’d have to find another job, the Club came and gave him a chance. The man would probably do anything we ask of him, even being sold anywhere if it’d give us a profit. Such an attitude should be rewarded and a last hurrah could be on the cards.

What Pep had to say: “Soriano is a possible replacement for Villa.

“But the downside is that if we promote him to first team, there’s no going back for him. He has shown that he can play in the first division, and he deserves a chance after all he’s done in the reserves, he has a lot of potential, he fits into the team well. We have three weeks to decide. We’ll see how this month goes, and how he adjusts to things.”

– You know who’s set to renew until 2013? Yeeep.

Stay forever please.

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Just your neighbourhood Barca fanatic

62 Comments

  1. Calvin
    January 3, 2012

    I just stopped by to say: GO MALAGA!

    • January 3, 2012

      I’m not watching that game. That’s why Malaga are winning. Praise me.

      • Calvin
        January 3, 2012

        Don’t you dare start watching it, I’m warning you…

          • Calvin
            January 3, 2012

            Are you watching this game? It’s crazy!

          • January 3, 2012

            It’s all Kari’s fault now. She must have thought of taking a quick peek and look what happened.

          • Calvin
            January 3, 2012

            Could be my fault this time. I stopped watching and they scored twice…

  2. Ryan
    January 3, 2012

    Wow, a Malaga tricky tiny player even shorter than Cazorla! He almost crafted an equalizer too, had Rondon left the ball for whoever it was that was in a better position.

  3. Calvin
    January 3, 2012

    Really hoping Abidal renews soon. Am I the only one who thinks he is waiting for Pep to renew before he commits? I’m not convinced Abidal is ready to retire at the club if Pep leaves before he does…

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      January 3, 2012

      maybe. hopefully Pep will renew soon.

      Guardiola: “If I would have made a decision about my renewal, the president would already know about it.”

      come on, Pep. do it.

      • drogon
        January 4, 2012

        Give Pep time, he’s going to renew eventually. Perhaps he’ll do it in June but he’ll do it! It’s a very pertinent question the one about Abidal…

  4. BarcaGirl_Indo
    January 3, 2012

    if we beat Osasuna we’ll go to Evil Ground (again) in two weeks! oh, joy! yeeaaay!!

    not.

  5. January 3, 2012

    Should also be noted that we’re Keita less from next Monday [the 9th] on. African Cup Of Nations and all that.

  6. Barka
    January 3, 2012

    The situation in Europe worries me greatly. I think the breakup of the Euro zone is impossible to stop now and two countries that will surely leave it are Greece and Spain. It won’t take long for Greece to declare bankruptcy and leave the Euro, may be even in the first half of this year. Spain and several Southern European countries will follow Greece in couple of years if not soon. I hope the club is prepared for the worst.

  7. Jafri
    January 3, 2012

    Well, Malaga can always go through with a 1-0 win. Here’s hoping.

    • blitzen
      January 4, 2012

      I’m crossing my fingers for them. They have two important away goals and will be super-motivated at home. It could happen.

  8. Gogah
    January 4, 2012

    Will we be wearing the club world cup winners thingy on our jerseys from today?

    • January 4, 2012

      The emblems are pretty boss looking. It hurt seeing it on Inter’s shirts for a whole year.

  9. blitzen
    January 4, 2012

    Messi out of today’s game. He and Valdes both have the flu, not that VV would have played anyway.

    • January 4, 2012

      Sucks, but I think we will cope. An extended rest for Messi is also not a bad thing. I have a feeling all those “in-the-dark” training sessions are the culprit. Okay maybe not, but Messi looked so lonely training by himself in the dark when he returned from Arg.

    • January 4, 2012

      from @barcastuff: “Despite having a flu, Messi showed up for training this morning and wanted to play tonight. He was told to return home”.

      The Pulga just wants to play the game he loves, all day every day. Love the dedication.

      • blitzen
        January 4, 2012

        Yeah, this made me laugh. Made me think of a little boy hanging around the playground, “Why can’t I play too???”

        Know your limits, Leo. We need you more for Sunday’s game than this one.

      • nzm
        January 4, 2012

        Love it! Did he take his ball home too, so that the others couldn’t keep playing? 😀

        • blitzen
          January 4, 2012

          I would hate to have been the one who had to look into his sad little face and tell him to go home! Like kicking a puppy.

        • January 4, 2012

          He tried to, but Pep, with his tactical mind and all, pried the ball away by buying Messi icecream for the drive home.

          And off went little Pulga, vanilla-chocolate swirl in hand, in his Maserati/Ferrari/Boeing 747.

          • nzm
            January 4, 2012

            But what really sealed it was the surprise latest Lego kit that Pep also gave him.

            After that, all thoughts of practice were forgotten!

    • mom4
      January 4, 2012

      Has anyone in Spain ever heard of flu vaccinations?

      • January 4, 2012

        Looks like Mourinho has been systematically kidnapping all the flu-shot health professionals in the Barcelona area leading up to the CDR clash.

        Sorry, double posted from my twitter but it applies so well.

  10. nzm
    January 4, 2012

    Big week for our boys:
    ~ Osasuna tonight
    ~ Public open practice tomorrow (we’re going – YAY!!!)
    ~ Espanyol at Cornella El Prat on Sunday
    ~ On Monday, a lot of them then hop on a plane to Zurich for the Ballon D’Or ceremony.

    I expect nothing less from the latter except for Messi (or Xavi) to win Ballon D’Or and for Pep to win Manager.

    My heart is torn between Messi and Xavi. Yes for Messi to get his 3rd in a row, but also yes for some Xavi recognition.

    • January 4, 2012

      I feel the same way about the Balon D’or. Messi 3 in a row vs a very deserving Xavi for really his whole career. Though I would imagine Messi will win it again. He had a sensational year and this time around there was no major international tournament to make Xavi’s case stronger.

      If they can have co-MVPs in many sports, why not a co-Balon D’or? Then everyone wins. Except TB.

      nzm- I take it you live in Barcelona? I envy you. I would have loved to go to the open practice!

      • blitzen
        January 4, 2012

        Last year I really thought Xavi had a chance of winning it, but in the end the vote wasn’t even close. This year I can’t see any other outcome than Messi winning his third in a row. He had a spectacular year.

        Xavi deserves it too, but it’s not going to happen for him. He needs some kind of Lifetime Achievement Victory for Football trophy.

        And I’m sad Iniesta didn’t make the top 3 this year. IMO 2011 was even better than 2010 for him (WC goal notwithstanding). He played at a higher level, no major injuries, and was just…devastatingly brilliant. Sadly I don’t think he will ever win a Balon d’Or either.

        • January 4, 2012

          Agreed. This year would have made more sense for Iniesta to be in the top 3. I swear the weight a world cup winning goal has…. He was injured for most of that year and really didn’t have much to contribute for great parts of the season.

          A lifetime achievement for being awesome award is perhaps the only way Xavi will be recognized. Fear not though, the man has more team trophies than Mourinho has excuses and will be remembered forever and ever by Cules all over the world. That is, until he becomes our coach and kicks some more ass 🙂

          What can we say, this is Messi’s world and everyone’s just kicking about in it.

      • nzm
        January 4, 2012

        Yes, Mani – we live in Barcelona. How lucky are we? FCB is the icing on the cake that is the beautiful city of Barcelona.

        • January 4, 2012

          Ever since my vacation there, I have been looking for ways to move to Barcelona. Near impossible for a North American these days though, given the rate of unemployment in Spain. Beautiful city indeed.

          We kept going back to the Mirablau cafe up near Tibidabo. What an amazing view. My dream is to purchase the Gaudi-looking mansion that sits just on top of the cafe.

          • nzm
            January 4, 2012

            We were up there on New Year’s Day! It was a perfect sunny day – no wind, no clouds – nearly warm enough for t-shirts only!

            A perfect way to start the year.

  11. drogon
    January 4, 2012

    Going to the stadium tonight… I am sure we’ll see glourious football as the heading says!
    Força Barça

  12. drogon
    January 4, 2012

    Going to the stadium tonight… I am sure we’ll see glorious football as the heading says!
    Força Barça

    • January 4, 2012

      Great drogon. Rub it in by posting it twice why don’t ya 🙁

      • drogon
        January 4, 2012

        Sorry… I misspelt on my first post! Don’t get too jealous though! 😉

    • nzm
      January 4, 2012

      Don’t get caught out like we did at the Hospi game.

      We expected that the metro would still be running after the game finished, (as it usually is after a Barca game), but it wasn’t!

      There was chaos and mayhem all around as people tried to find alternative ways home.

      Luckily, we knew where our bus left from, but we felt really bad for the 2 Saudi parties that we had given advice to that night, about the metro being the best way back into the city. 🙁

  13. blitzen
    January 4, 2012

    From Part 1 of this fantastic interview posted on Total Barça:

    Is there a next Xavi in la Masia?

    Of course! It is the laws of life. There will be a new Xavi, perhaps an even better Xavi, because football, as in life, is constantly evolving. In the current team, there are already extraordinary players able to play my role properly, especially Cesc who joined us at the beginning of the season. Then there’s also Thiago, who I like a lot. Below him, Sergi Roberto is about to knock on the first team’s doors in at least another year’s time. Espinosa too is a very good footballer, and Thiago’s brother Rafael. FC Barcelona never has a shortage of talent and the day I’m gone, I will sleep well at night for I know Barça will continue to advance and win titles with or without me.

    😀 😀 😀

    http://www.totalbarca.com/2012/interviews/xavis-exclusive-interview-with-le-buteur-part-i/#ixzz1iVIRledM

    Original at: http://www.lebuteur.com/entretien/actualites/exclusif-xavi-soffre-aux-algeriens (French)

    • January 4, 2012

      I unmoderated that just to see Espinosa get mentioned by Xavi even though Eusebio keeps him glued to the bench? 🙁

      Free Javi Espinosa!

      • blitzen
        January 4, 2012

        Don’t worry, the club seems to be well aware of Espinosa’s talent. He will get his time.

        Reading the article in the original French, the first third of it is an almost embarrassingly Marca-level paean to how wonderful Xavi is as a football player and human being. LOL!

    • mom4
      January 4, 2012

      Not this again. First the LB, now this(posted same above before yours was unmoderated). 🙂

      • blitzen
        January 4, 2012

        Can I help it if I am precocious? 😈

      • nzm
        January 4, 2012

        mom4 – got your email.

        I’ll respond to you tomorrow – after I get back from the open training – hoping that I can include a pic of human Xavi for you. 🙂

  14. blitzen
    January 4, 2012

    Dangit, someone unmoderate my previous post ^! 👿

    • Calvin
      January 4, 2012

      Hoping to see some Espinazos later in the game today…

  15. January 4, 2012

    Anyone seen the pics on fcb.com of their new team bus? DAMN! Why would anyone ever want to leave! The things money can buy…

  16. blitzen
    January 4, 2012

    Xavi’s English lessons must be going well. In that interview with Le Buteur (link posted above ^) they gave him the choice of English or Spanish. Obviously he preferred Spanish, but he greeted them in English initially! I can’t wait for the day when we hear him answer questions in English!

  17. ooga aga
    January 4, 2012

    Pinto,
    Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Mascherano,
    Cesc, Xavi, Thiago, Sergio B.
    Pedro y Cuenca

    official

  18. ooga aga
    January 4, 2012

    prob more like

    Pinto,
    Puyol, Piqué, Mascherano,
    Sergio B
    Alves, Xavi, Thiago
    Cuenca, Pedro, Cesc

  19. Calvin
    January 4, 2012

    Holy fall askeep on my couch.

    Liveblog will be up in a minute folks

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