For Whom the Bell Tolls: Barça – Inter

CL Preview: Barcelona – Internazionale, Tuesday 2:45pm EST, Fox Soccer en Español and DirectTV

Barcelona at Dusk

Night falls swiftly across the city. The sun’s final rays reach out and strike the towers of the modern cathedral, its spindly form outlined momentarily against the darkening sky. Streetlights are on, illuminating cobblestone streets that intersect with sharp-angled apartment buildings built in the latest, most outlandish style.

Near the waterfront, where tourists often pack the cafes and restaurants, there is the distinct feeling of meshing centuries of culture with the neon shopping malls of international consumerism, of mountains of money failing to find their way through the dimly lit back alleys to where normal people live. But away from that, up the long diagonals that create a spider’s web out of the city’s streets and out past the city center, there is a hum. As you approach, walking amongst the shadows and family shops, you realize you’re in the middle of a throng, a crowd working its way slowly forward. There is energy and there is passion; there are shouts, laughter, grim silence, and that hum. That hum is there, the murmur of thousands of voices, of feet walking, of clothes swishing, the occasional horn honking.

This is a city built on individual greatness and collective passion, steeped in historical memory as alive as anywhere else on earth. This is the Barcelona of Antoni Gaudí, of Parc Güell, of Las Ramblas, of the Moors and Spanish Marches, of red and yellow flags fluttering on balconies, of the Catalan language, of cultural autonomy, of pa amb tomaquet, and, above all, of the Camp Nou, of Futbol Club Barcelona, of the blaugrana.

There is not an empty seat in the house. Not even in this most enormous of mansions. Not tonight, not now. You are not alone in understanding the importance of this, of looking up at the sky and smiling even as the butterflies flitter in your stomach like you’re a conservation society whose collection contains the last remaining monarchs. The guy next to you, his stomach is churning the same way, his throat is hoarse even before he begins to yell, tight as it is with nerves. This is not Tuesday night anymore, this is it. This is the here, the now, and the forever. Look down on that field of glory and pain and love every second of it.

I will not be making that lonely walk with ninety-eight thousand others tomorrow night; instead I will be at home, 3839 miles away, pacing violently before the start, eyeing my liquor cabinet half lustily and half on edge and one hundred percent knowing it’s only midafternoon and mescal will not do me pretty. And that if she returns and finds me pitched out on the ground groaning about the worm at the bottom of the bottle and Xavi’s chameleon eyes, the lady will be none-to-pleased. However, given that last time it was a do-or-die Champions League match I drank despondently from a bottle of Flor de Caña alongside two friends for ninety-three minutes and then erupted into a frenzy of gibberish and head-rushiness, perhaps the drinking of cocktails is in order. And just for the record, we’re not talking about the Catalunya-located part of the multi hydra that is BFB—we’re not talking about him, do you hear me? But you can follow him on Twitter (and me, if you’re interested); just don’t talk about him! I’m a little jealous, after all.

So here we are, at one of those moments in the season where everyone–everyone–is braying something like “This is a final!” “The end of the line if we don’t win!” “Mourinho has crabs!” I count myself lucky that I’m an impartial arbiter of all things fact and fiction, meaning I don’t have to be involved in such mindless skirmishes within the wider footballing community. I can sit back and realize that this is just another game among thousands to be played this year alone, much less this decade or during my lifetime. I am above these trivial human plights.

This is a final, end of the line, do-or-die, sink-or-swim, oh holy hell.

I don’t know about the crabs part, to be honest, but I hope for his sake it’s not true.

Their squad list is: Toldo (GK), Julio Cesar (GK), Orlandoni (GK), Cordoba, Zanetti, Lucio, Maicon, Materazzi, Samuel, Chivu, Stankovic, Quaresma, Thiago Motta, Sneijder, Muntari, Vieira, Krhin, Cambiasso, Mancini, Eto’o, Suazo, Diego Milito, Balotelli.

Gimme dat ball!
Gimme dat ball!

They’re stronger than they were last time, with fewer injuries, really, which means a probable starting lineup including Cuchu Cambiasso. Perhaps I should have warned several of our regular readers to put on some Depends before that statement was written, but it’s too late now. The first time we played them, Inter came at us with a starting line up of Julio César, Samuel, Lucio, Chivu, Maicon, Zanetti, Thiago Motta, Sneijder, Muntari, Eto’o, Milito, meaning they rolled out what looked on paper to be a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1, but was more of a 5-3-2 in practice. I could imagine a very similar lineup being put out there again tomorrow, with Cambiasso taking over for either Thiago Motta or Muntari. Given our lack of an Abidal, I can imagine a 4-5-1 coming from Mourinho, with Maicon given free reign as a fifth midfielder on the right with small defensive duties against Keita, Iniesta, or Henry on our left.

They know they’re going up against a 4-3-3, so it’s not like we’re going to surprise them with that, but they don’t know, as of right now, whether or not they’ll be going up against Lionel Messi as a starter, as a sub, or not at all. It appears that The Yaya is still out with The Swine and will not be able to play tomorrow, which is a hefty blow, in my opinion, but not one we can’t recover from because Busi did play in the CL final after all and was pretty damned good (he got an 8 in the review from Kevin, after all).

For our part, in the first go-around at the San Siro, we fielded Valdés, Alves Pique, Puyol, Abidal, The Yaya, Keita, Xavi, Henry, Ibra, Messi. We had a very solid starting eleven (Iniesta was coming back from injury and ended up playing the final 15 minutes) and ended up drawing 0-0. Given that we’re at the Camp Nou, I like our chances regardless of who is on the field with us, but Abidal’s absence has the potential to open up a hole on our left side that Maxwell may not be able to cover. Do we add Keita’s steel to the midfield to stop that or Iniesta’s possession? Will Henry start on the left and Pedro! on the right? Will Iniesta take Messi’s spot?

Well, for what it’s worth, here’s my predicted lineup: Valdés, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Maxwell, Busi, Keita, Xavi, Henry, Ibra, Pedro!. Yeah, I know there’s no Iniesta out there and that seems ridiculous, right? But it’s my predicted lineup and I’m willing to be wrong about this. In his preview, Ramzi has suggested a front line of Henry, Ibra, Iniesta and I’m not opposed to this at all, but I wonder if Guardiola is. We’ll have to wait and find out because you never ever know what he’s going to come out with. Messi probably shouldn’t start and hopefully won’t have to play at all so that he’s 100% for the clásico, but, again, Guardiola is a mad man. Jesus, I trust a mad man. Sheesh.

Official prediction: 1-1. I know. I know. Okay, that’s bad. But it could be worse. I’ll be watching the Rubin Kazan-Dynamo Kiev at noon tomorrow on a stream because Fox Soccer isn’t showing it and by the time we kickoff we’ll know if we have to win to stay in the hunt. So at least there’s that. But I still say one goal from Ibra and, let’s be honest here, one goal from Eto’o. Samu should get a hero’s welcome and then the game should start and we should make him pay for switching sides by keeping the ball from him. But he’s going to want it something ferocious and I think we’re tired and a bit out of sorts, so it’ll be the draw that Mourinho is looking for thanks to some sloppy defending on a counter. Dammit.

Match time: 8:45pm local/Barcelona; 2:45pm EST/New York (check your local time here)
TV Channel: Fox Soccer en Español or on DirectTV in English
Referee: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland). You may remember Busacca from the Champions League final last year, where he gave out 4 yellow cards, only one of which went to a Barcelona player: Pique in the 16th minute. I have no issues with him as I think he might be the best referee around, now that Colina is gone.
Weather: Should be in the upper 40s Fahrenheit (8-9Celsius) with 0% chance of rain. Should be a nice night for a match.

Much, much more to come over the next few days. Keep the banner and logo submissions rolling! Send them to info[at]barcelonafootballblog[dot]com!

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. Thx for the preview Isaiah Good read.

    One question that’s bugging me though is about the kiev-kazan game.
    What is the best result for us and what is the worst. Just want to know the implications of that game on our CL advancment.

    1. It depends on how you look at it, but them drawing is probably the best result we could hope for, yeah.

      If Kazan wins and we lose, we’re done. So that would be the worst result. If Kiev wins, we can still take the spot from them beating them in the Ukraine, but a draw there would doom us.

      Basically, we need to win.

  2. Isaiah, you better stop posting 1-1 as your predictions.. They are coming true waaay too often..

    Fun fact: The last time we drew 4 games in 5 matches (all competitions mind you), we were on our way to triplete ecstasy..

  3. I think we definitely want a draw. That would leave Rubin on 6pts and Dynamo on 5, before we start (on 5 pts).

    A Rubin win would be the worst. A Dynamo win could turn out to be good and could turn out to be bad, depending on what happens on the last matchday.

  4. i really do hope ibra plays. my new italian friend buccia, who doesn’t speak a word of english but has had hour long coversations w/me about futbol on tour, is a huge inter fan. he was really pumped about getting eto’o in the ibra swap. he was like, “ibra: stronzo”. translation: ibra’s an asshole. i quickly responded, “ibra: mia stronzo.” i hope he shows up tomorrow.

    i think iniesta in the middle alongside xavi would be best for this game. pedro-ibra-henry up top should be able to handle shit. maicon needs to be contained. i’m calling a back four that consists of puyi at left back, marquez & pique in the middle, and alves roaming right field. hopefully messi doesn’t have to come on at all tomorrow.

    i gotta read me some ramzi and see if he concurs.

  5. Why are most previews coming with a LOT of stuff about the city, and very little about the game tactics ? Example, the previous preview of the Athletico match, there was NOTHING about tactics at all ? :(. Sadly, I have gotten used to much better stuff on this blog. IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT !! 🙂


    1. Well it’s certainly my fault, that’s true.

      I try to throw in tactics, but I think awareness of what goes on within the wider cultural context of La Liga and Spain is very important. Because this is an English-language blog about a Spanish-speaking league, I find that it’s important to give historical context for the cities and places we visit. Barcelona and Spain are much more than soccer-playing places and I’d like to reflect that in my writing. There is value, in my history major world, to learning about what happened on X day in X country, though those facts by no means show you everything about a location or culture.

      I also find it quite difficult to discuss the tactical nuances between, say, Inter and Athletic because I imagine both matches are going to be played with similar approaches on our part–that’s not to say there won’t be dramatic differences between the matches, but having written about those differences for the better part of 3 years now, I find it difficult to write, time and again, why it is that Messi will be playing in the hole this time or Iniesta a more central role or Keita a wider left role or what have you.

      It’s all very exciting, though, and normally I write about tactics as much as I can in the limited amount of time I have (the Athletic preview was an aberration caused by me losing most of my preview to a router failure–SCREW YOU ROUTER), but today I wanted to emphasize the cultural aspects of matchday, of being a part of a wider blaugrana world, and, of course, because I’m kinda too geeked to write about tactics.

      The review should discuss much of that side of things (that I’m writing both preview and review has certainly contributed to my laziness on the tactical front).

    2. I say keep it up. Your previous are pieces of excellent journalism. I am a writer myself and know good prose when I see it.

    3. i appreciate your historical summaries! this is the first season this blog has been in business, highlighting that sorta stuff is important for the first time ’round

  6. IF Mou is not bluffing with his defense, I would play with Iniesta on the right. Chivu on the left does very little going forward but is a strength defensively. If Iniesta plays on the right, he will eventually end up moving towards the center between the two forwards a lot and play some kind of false 9 as well, or more probably an “enganche”. So this would turn Chivu’s presence obsolete and we would also enjoy our fair share of possession in midfield. Keita and Busquets will have essential roles in that they have to make sure Sneijder gets as few touches and passing opportunities as possible. Sneijder is the link between forwards and midfielders and both Eto’o and Milito can’t do much without the link. So Iniesta just makes more sense than Pedro does. Our right side will be anyway occupied by Alves, Xavi and Iniesta and that’s offensively a lot of trouble for anyone who plays there for Inter.

    1. wow… that just makes complete sense…

      you are right, Chivu is Solid as hell defensively, but is worthless in attack… so Iniesta > Pedro! on the right. genius!

  7. We have put ourselves in some position… second in la liga with el clasico to come, 3rd in CL facing inter home + dynamo away and now the injuries come. I’m a little scared but still have some trust… I think we’re gonna win tomorrow.

    Ibra has to play tomorrow and to me it’s ok that one of iniesta/titi/pedro! doesn’t start, we gotta keep at least one card in our sleeve for the second half. For some games you look at our bench and feel a little creepy … Pinto, Márquez, Jeffren, Bojan, Jonathan dos Santos, Fontàs and so on.

  8. We’ll see about about the whole live tweeting thing. I’m not sure I’m going to be up for pecking away on this thing while there is such a crucial match going on. Everyone will be liveblogging anyhow.

  9. The top of Marca’s cover today: “If Barcelona force Messi to play, they could see him break down”. The middle of Marca’s cover today: Cristiano: “It hurts but I’m going to play the clásico no matter what”.


  10. I have to say I quite look forward to your cultural preambles, Isaiah. It also helped calm me down. I’m getting quite nervous about this one.

    I think we’re due a big game from some of our big names. I’m looking for more from alves, Pique ( who has wobbled recently ) Henry and Ibra.

    Btw, I popped over to the AC Milan forum to see how R80 did this weekend.
    Wow ! That’s the closest I’ve seen to his Barca days. Speed, attack, tricks, assists, another great PK. Good to see. Still the most exciting player on the planet in form like this. Check the highlights here (bottom of page).

  11. Word now is match time decision. Ibra will play, though. He practiced with the group and looked. Messi might be on the bench, though. What will help are warm temperatures, in the 50s at match time. Maybe even 60s.

    I say Ibra will play not because I know, but he was doing full-speed stuff in practice. And when you can kick footballs while standing on a box, then leap off one-legged, you’re playing. Messi really looked like he wanted to join in the group workout, which is a good sign.

    And hey, it’s Match Day here. I’m going to bed.

  12. Good preview. I think we will win this one 2 – 1. I hope Messi does not need to play. Such a big match so early in the season, shucks! Thats why we love the game i guess.

  13. Isaiah, Great Article, Made me Miss Being in Barcelona, Perfect Picture as well. Look forward to the game and i hope we at least put in a good performance however the result. Hopefully we can have Ibra for the game, putting Pedro! on the right and Henry on the Left. I agree with having iniesta come off the bench so that we can have a more solid defensive system with Keita and Busi out there. We’ll see what Pep rolls out with his limited options, but as always, In Pep We Trust. Força Barca!

  14. I would title this post ” Now or Never”, because mentally, it truly is. This i the core of the stretch we all feared several weeks ago. We really NEED this win. A WIN. a tie will not by any means suffice.

  15. Nice one Isaiah.

    No way did I imagine having one of these barn storming games so early on. It’s essential that we put away our chances early on. We awake a monster when we score early and i’m so psyched!

    What’s the news on sneijder? is he fit?

  16. So this helps make sense of why Henry hasn’t been producing for us.

    Henry said he had given everything to help France qualify for the finals.

    “I have always fought for Les Bleus and I will always fight for Les Bleus,” he said. “Since the beginning of the season, I have come to play for the national team carrying injuries.

    “I have even put myself at odds with my club – the club and the coach Pep Guardiola have been extraordinary on this matter because he understood that I wanted to play and try to qualify the France team.”

  17. T minus 12 hours kids. I’m taking the day off tomorrow. If we win, I’m getting sloshed. If we lose, I’m getting sloshed.

    Which means, I suppose, that my wife will be pulling for a draw. Who the hell wants to deal with a drunk person at 4pm?

    1. the game for me is at 11:45 am… so i’m sure i’ll be drunk no later than 12:30pm!!!

      I’m actually kinda drunk right now, to be honest.

      Anyways… I think it’s great news that Ibra could possibly start tomorrow. As far as Messi, fit or not, I don’t want to have to use him. a) i want him as fresh as possible for sunday. b) i think it would be a good motivator if we took down Inter without having to depend on Messi.

      I think if Ibrahimovic starts, he will not have a quiet game. Whether that means scoring a game winning/opening stunner, or getting red-carded early, I don’t know… but I’m convinced that this fixture will bring something extra out of him…

      Kxevin. If you don’t feel like twittering… don’t… Dude, your on vacation in a beautiful city, enjoying delicious food, cheap alcohol, and going to watch the best sport in the world, played at the absolute highest level there is. First and foremost, enjoy yourself. If you can’t tear yourself away from the match long enough to tweet, so be it. We are going to be glued to the TV anyways. So, have fun. Boo Crynaldo until you pass out, and write salivating account of your travels when you get back. Anyways, i think my point is… Have fun!

      As for the rest of us… times are tough, yes. But we are the best team in the world. Not because one or two players, but because our individual greatness is harnessed by a strong collective brilliance. So, whichever of our 11 play the Inter game, and whichever 11 play the Clasico, we have to believe that nothing will be left on the field. That every effort will be given for the cause, and that if we lose, it is because the other team just flat out outclassed and outworked us, and that we gave it everything we could


    2. 🙂

      No, just a big admirer.

      I’ve also watched 300, V for Vendetta, Gladiator, and Armageddon, so i love an epic speech ever now and then.

      plus, Barcelona is what what i look forward to every day. Its what determines my mood for the week. What makes me wake up early, what makes me ignore my family, and neglect my chores. So, for better or worse. All of my hopes and dreams lie on their feet.

    3. I like some speeches myself.. This one is my all time favourite:

      The one in Miracle was not too bad either.. Here is a fantastic piece on half-time speeches (or lack thereof):

    4. Wow.. i’ve watched that movie once or twice, but never noticed the speech. it was a good one.

      although not sports related this is my all time favorite:
      it is from Armageddon of course, and means more when put into the context of the movie…

      i havn’t watched “Miracle” yet. Something about hockey that didn’t inspire me to go watch it.

    1. Well… Ibra and Pique, but yeah… where ever it is that you are, i’m there with you 🙂

  18. About 10 a.m. here. Puyol is saying that the club’s mentality is to treat this match like a final, he said, because their view is that this is a must-win. To me, that also means that Messi is playing, for the same reasons that Henry and Iniesta played in the Rome final: you go with your horses in giant matches such as this.

    Captain Caveman’s comments over at EMD really are inspiring. I’m about to go for a run, to work off some nervous tension, then head out for a day of stuffness.

    So unbelievably nervous. But I think that if we play as we can, we will win something like 3-1. And this is a big-match club. This also an opportunity for Ibrahimovic to prove that he is indeed a man for the big matches.

    1. I’m glad to hear it.
      If Puyol is in that mentality, then he sure won’t take any half-assedness from anyone.

      And you are right. If we play like we know how to, we can hit Inter with a lot of goals.

  19. Now that Yaya is not available, it won,t be a surprise that Pep use Keita-Xavi-Iniesta in the midfiled if Busquets didnt show enough focus. Which will leave a space for Pedro. But I still believe that its better to start Iniesta in Messi place.

    I dont agree that the importance of the game dictates starting Messi. If Messi is not fit, then we must not start him because this game is important. He never perform when he isnt fit. He start against a fresh opponent and lose the physical battle in the first half before collapsing fitness wise in the second. Use the first half to burn the opponent batteries then introduce Messi. We dont need to either win or lose this game in the first half if we can win it through out the 90 minutes.

    And if you ask me, I strongly believe that we will win this one. They are solid, but not so used to the fast tempo we play.

    I am sure Pep is telling the guys that we DO NOT need to hurry. Getting carried away by the fans chants to crush inter in the first minute may back fire. If we stay calm, we win.

  20. Abidal made it for the 20 men squad…
    VV, Pinto, Alves, Pique, Puyi, Fontas, Marquez, Abidal, Maxwell, Busi, Xavi, Keita, JDS, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro, Ibra, Bojan, Henry & Jeffren

  21. In my view, the victory will depend on two factors.
    1. Ibra will have to start so the defenders are drawn to him in the middle.
    2. Henry and either Messi or Pedro will have to start to give width on both wings.
    That is the only way the Inter defence will be spread enough for the mighty mites – Xavi, Iniesta to open up the game, or to score.
    VISCA Blau-Grana!

  22. I predict 1-0, goal from……….

    HENRY. yeah that’s right, the much maligned hand of henry will silence the critics with a lovely tap-in provided by Xavi. And I’m going to say it comes in the 60th minute. We shouldn’t be afraid today. We are the best team in the world. WE WILL WIN.

  23. Back at tbe apartment. Still no definite word on Messi or Ibra. Abidal is the big news here. Nobody thinks that he will start, but this definitely puts him in the frame for the Clasico, which is excellent. My guess is that The Yaya also is back then.

    And I’m going to disagree with Ramzi. Messi should play, and he:s better off starting after a nice, long warmup. The modern footballer plays hurt. All the time. If he is close enough to fitness where he’s in the loneup, that means that the risk is minimal. Because Guardiola understands his players and will not risk them needlessly, or at all.

    some seem to be thinking that if we draw here, no problem, becauae we win at Synamo. I’m just not that confident of getting a W down there, in the dead of winter. Win here, and life geta alot eaaier. I’d rather face the EE Messiless, than Inter, where his movement will unaettle their defense

    1. Last match, in the match between Barca and Inter, one of the best(if not the best) player on the pitch was Lucio. If he defends(and starts up plays) anything like he did in that game, we are in trouble.

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