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