I’m blogging from the middle of a hurricane. Or, well, probably more like the outer edge of a hurricane that is buffeting the area with some decent winds and very high storm surges. The lights are flickering and Mrs. The Lady is doing yoga to an online video. Such are storms in the modern era when you’re on high ground. Large parts of the coast are now underwater and many people have lost a lot tonight. Spare a thought or two for the people.
Barcelona is, I suspect, unaffected by Hurricane Sandy and as such there will still be a Copa del Rey match tomorrow against Alaves, which is based in Vitoria in the Basque Country. If you’ve never been to Vitoria, it’s got the feel of a small provincial town that is waking up from a long slumber. When I was there in 2008 (after leaving my rail pass on the train and having to track it down), it was full of construction sites and fairly empty bars serving delicious tapas (probably called pintxos there).
Going up against a Segunda B side that is currently first after 10 matches sounds easy enough, but don’t forget that Real Madrid once lost to Alcorcon. Can we talk about that a bit more because it makes me laugh: Real Madrid once lost to Alcorcon. As such, its’ vital that Barcelona not lose to a team that’s in the same division as Real Madrid’s C team.* Despite all that, Tito has chosen to go with the following squad: Pinto, Oier, Alves, Montoya, Song, Adriano, Mascherano, Bartra, Dos Santos, Sergio, Iniesta, Cesc, Sergi Roberto, Tello, Villa and Alexis.
Some might frown at such a list, but despite not having Valdés, Alba, Pedro, Xavi and Messi, it’s a good idea. The Copa del Rey should be used more as a youth competition than as a first team competition. While I love to win trophies, I love readying the next generation more than I care for Copa del Rey trophies. That might seem weird if you’ve ever seen me screaming wildly during a CDR match, but I would very much like to see a mix of veterans and youngsters throughout the CDR campaign. Even if we face RM in the semifinals, I’d like to see Sergi Roberto, JDS, and Bartra get minutes over those who are already proven quantities.
Perhaps that is worth some explanation: the Copa del Rey has an impressive history, but it has destroyed itself by caving to the “more matches are better” model. Once upon a time, the CDR was single-knockout. Once upon a time, the CDR was interesting. While 4 teams have won the competition over the last 5 years (Valencia, Sevilla, RM, and Barcelona), the last 4 years have felt like poor shadows of what was once an illustrious competition. The Big Two win it when they feel like it because they have a home and away leg in order to do so rather than just one 90-minute match away to a lower-ranked squad. Especially in today’s market where the larger teams reap larger profits, there is no reason for RFEF to change anything, but the smaller teams actually need more than they’re getting. They need the draw of a big team, but also the possibility of advancing to the next round.
As it is, we play a round with one or two kiddies, then if things don’t work out, we bring out the big guns for a slaughterfest. Lionel Messi comes on and scores a hat trick to sink Sevilla. That sort of thing. I’d rather it be a question of playing the young team and taking your lumps because that’s a good way to grow. There’s an argument for playing more matches with the little ones over the course of a tournament, but because pressure is part of a Barcelona player’s life they should get used to must-win matches.
RFEF acts like they want to make it a serious competition by throwing in rules governing how many first teamers you can include, but there’s really nothing to that rule other than trying to get RM and Barcelona to play their best 11. Why shouldn’t a team be allowed to do whatever they want regarding their lineups in matches? RFEF is the one that has failed consistently in the past to make a level playing field and suddenly it’s the teams’ job to ensure a modicum of equality by not being “insulting” to their opponents by fielding wildly different squads than at the weekend?
So I want to see a lineup that reflects our best of the youngest: Oier, Montoya, Bartra, Song, Adriano, Sergi Roberto, JDS, Cesc, Tello, Villa, Alexis. We obviously won’t see that, but that’s how I’d roll out.
Official Prediction: 1-2, goals by Tello and Messi. Yes I know he’s not playing, but are you really going to bet against him at this point?
* I believe RM C purchased their spot in the competition this past year, but I could be wrong about that. I didn’t waste my valuable time looking that up.