Hello. It’s been a little while since we really had a chance to talk. Life has been busy and all of that stuff you’re not interested in. Last week there was some hullabaloo in Galicia that got a lot of people in a tizzy, but all I really remember is that Jordia Alba scored two golazos and Messi got a hat trick. Then there was a Highland Games or something in Barcelona in midweek that drew some sort of huzzah from the crowd. I hear Jordi Alba did well in the caber toss.
So now it’s a trip to good ol’ Rayo Vallecano, who sit in 12th with a 3W-1D-4L record. They’re a mid table team that lost to RM 0-2 at home and also pushed Atleti to the brink with a 4-3 loss at the Calderon. And they also lost 6-1 to Valladolid. This match has the makings of…of…I have no idea. Rayo is insane. Their leading scorer is a 20 year old named Léo Baptistão who last year was in their B side. He’s already scored 4 goals. Andrija Delibasic and Piti (whose name is too close to Pizzi for comfort) both have 2. They also have a player named Trasch.
Barça is a juggernaut going into David’s house. Even without a proper defense, FCB is anything but a paper tiger. Ask Celtic if the claws are real. Ask Depor if there’s a bite behind the growl. Despite the goal-scoring record (he has 11 in the league, which incidentally is exactly what Rayo has as a team), neither razor sharp part is actually Lionel Messi. Sure, he’s banging in goals and making life hard for opposing defenses, but the Barcelona engine room is where the magic has to come from and both Iniesta and Xavi are slightly off song compared to the heights they’ve reached at times. Cesc was ridiculous against Depor, but was also handed about an hour and a half on the ball. Iniesta hasn’t seemed like himself since coming back from injury (despite his goal on Tuesday, yeah).
The question of defense, of course, is the thing most will be focusing on. RFEF showed their extreme pro-Barcelona bias this week by upholding Mascherano’s absurd red card against Depor, so at least there’s more ammunition for the UEFACEF calls.
The squad: Valdés, Pinto, Montoya, Alves, Cesc, Xavi, Villa, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi, Busquets, Pedro, Dos Santos, Alba, Bartra, Adriano, Song, Tello
There’s no Pique still, which is probably a sign that he’s received a setback in training, but Alves is back from injury. Montoya is still in the squad, though and may get the call given that he was rested against Celtic. I think Alves will start.
Predicted lineup: Valdes, Alves, Bartra, Song, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro, Alexis.
We could see Adriano in the middle instead of Bartra given the youngster’s general lack of experience, but he was good enough against Celtic to earn another shot in the absence of the other natural CBs.
Official Prediction: 1-3. Our goal-allowing ways continue, but Messi gets 2 and Alexis finally gets off the snide.