El Clásico Preview: FC Barcelona – Real Madrid, Sunday 1pmEST, GolTV and ESPN Deportes
I’m not good at this part: previewing El Clásico. I get so riled up, so intensely partisan that it’s hard to write coherent sentences that make big net fill. See? But I’m here to work past my personal failings, to try to give you the preview you deserve. This is, after all, the one game worth previewing every year. So here goes: El clàssic, in Ultra High Definition, Isaiah Style. There are battles and then there is Verdun. There are wars and then there’s the Crusades. There are tumultuous times of social upheaval and then there are the 1960s. Combine all three of those and you have the slightest understanding of what it means for me to merely think the words El Clásico. This is the greatest game of the year, hands down. I’m more nervous and excited about this match three months beforehand than I was for the Champions League final. Seriously.
It is ninety-eight thousand screaming fans, clad head-to-toe in the beloved blaugrana, in the largest stadium in Europe, looking at an immaculate field. It is two hours of morbo, a word so awesome it doesn’t even have a translation into English. It is the passion, terror, hatred, and love all mixed into one super feeling, one undeniably fierce and burning emotion that defies logic and forces the most rational of people to do things they would never otherwise consider. It is what drives small children to flip opponents the bird, it is what drives old men to curse like wounded pirates over the smallest of insults. It is what causes someone to throw a severed animal head from the stands towards Scumbag Jerkwad Luis Figo. It is what causes me to write three posts a day with virtually no self-censorship or coherence. It is morbo and it is beautiful.
Normally I try to infuse previews with a sense of fairness towards the other team–a sense of objectivity, if you will–but it’s hard with this match. It’s hard to be non-partisan when we’re discussing Team Evil, after all. Fortunately, I don’t think any of you are expecting me to be anything other than a cheerleader for my team. Yay Barça! Still, I’m going to do my level best to get you your regular dose of preview-ness so that you’re 1) distracted for a bit from the butterflies in your stomach and 2) fully versed in what to expect out of this one. First, a stats comparison: It’s not a particularly important stat, but here’s the overall records between the two teams, from RM’s official site:
For some reason that I cannot fathom, the site didn’t include the exact numbers for how RM has done in the Camp Nou, despite mentioning “Real Madrid aren’t very lucky at Camp Nou…” Imagine that. Fortunately Wikipedia is here to save the day: Barça is 38W-12D-12L against RM at home, which is great. And a quick note: it should be called el clàssic for this one because it’s in Catalunya. And remember: Catalonia is not Spain (it says so in English in the picture above, after all, and it’s illegal to lie in pictures, right?)
What’s bad, though, is that Barça has only won one of those 38 in the last four years and only two in the last eight years. RM has won two as well and the rest, obviously, have been draws. We’re assured of goals: there have only been five scoreless draws in the history of el clàssic, four of which came in the Camp Nou and the latest of which was during the 2002-2003 season. Barça has won two straight against RM, of course, with an aggregate scoreline of 8-2. Not that last year has a particular bearing on what’s going to happen in this match, but it’s fun to mention those things from time to time.
Barça: 8W-3D-0L (29GF, 8GA)
RM: 9W-1D-1L (27GF, 8GA)
Barça: 5W-0D-0L (19GF, 5GA)
RM: 3W-1D-1L (9GF, 4GA)
Obviously Madrid has problems performing away from the Deathstar, for whatever reason. They don’t allow many goals, though, at 0.80 goals per away match. In fact they’ve conceded in just 2 of the 5 away matches they’ve played (2 in the loss to Sevilla and 2 in the win at Atleti), but they’re not massive scorers either, putting away only 1.80 goals per match. Not that we’re particularly more goal-scory (new word!) at 29 goals for, but at home we score 3.80 goals per match, which is fairly significant. So, if we do some fake math we see that 3.80 (our GF at home) * 0.80 (their GA away) is 3.04, meaning we will score 3 goals during the match! Rock! And obviously we allow 1 goal per match so the final score will be 3-1! Yay winning! Holes in logic? Oh no, none of that here. Next paragraph!
Okay, back to reality: Adam Bader of RealMadridTalk suggested in his interview with me that their lineup will be Casillas, Ramos, Pepe, Metzelder, Arbeloa, Lass, Alonso, Kaka, Ronaldo, Higuain, Benzema. That would mean two canteranos on the field for them. Not that we’re counting. EMD ran a little infographic (what up with Jorquera being listed?) that shows you the cost of the two squads, a little thing several Barça-based news outlets like to do now and then for reasons I cannot possibly understand. Let’s assume going forward that Adam’s predicted lineup is spot on or at least tactically correct (I don’t think Metzelder will start over Albiol, but we’ll have to see and I don’t think such a substitution would change the tactical approach much).
Here’s my predicted lineup for Barça: Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, The Yaya, Xavi, Iniesta, Henry, Ibra, Messi. You can’t get much awesomer than that, though it does leave Keita on the bench, which Guardiola might not be willing to do. If Messi isn’t 100%, I imagine that we’ll see Keita in for Iniesta in the midfield and Iniesta pushed up onto the right. However, I’ve been reading that Messi will more than likely have the green light for tomorrow and I can’t imagine that if he feels he’s ready to play Guardiola will keep him out. This ain’t your average day at the office, after all. If they start Arbeloa on the left and Messi is 100%, I think he torches them a significant number of times. Marcelo too if he gets a start because I don’t think Marcelo is as disciplined as Arbeloa in the defensive third. If Pellegrini does start Adam’s proposed lineup, it will be what Hector referred to as a 4-2-2-2 “magic square”, a lineup that I don’t think has enough solidity in midfield (Kaka and Crynaldo) to retain much possession against our team. Given that Iniesta and Xavi will be occupying midfield fulcrum roles, we’ll simply be able to pass around their DMs (Xabi Alonso and Lass) who are sitting back in front of the defensive line.
Another big if is if Pellegrini comes to play and puts out only one DM (Xabi Alonso) and switches Lass out for Granero, they might have a better chance of stifling our midfield, but Xabi Alonso would then have to have one hell of a game. While he’s certainly capable of that, I’m not sure Metzelder is capable of containing anyone at any time. If he starts, he’ll be crushed to death by the giant boulder that is Ibra.
Call me cynical, but I’m expecting them to come kick us like the Juande Ramos-led side last year in the Camp Nou. The Madrid fans demand an open game where they beat us man-vs-man, but I just don’t see that happening in our house. Som un, after all and they’re eleven individuals that will get their asses handed to them.
Okay, here are the game details:
Time: 7pm local/Barcelona, 1pmEST/New York (check your local time here)
TV: Watch it on GolTV or ESPN Deportes. GolTV is running an hour long preview/lead-up to the match.
Weather: 40F (4C) with showers expected.
Drink: Not sure what to drink for the game? Like strong beer? Tactical Nuclear Penguin has you covered. Yeah, you read that name right. Go to your favorite bar (check the Where to Watch page) and get your freakin’ war on. Also watch this:
Are you ready for this holy crap it’s finally here. We are going to rock this house out.
Official Prediction: 2-0 Barcelona wins, goals by Messi and Ibra. HOT DAMN BRING IT ON.