The Return of the Copa: Alaves – Barcelona

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?

Bah.

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?

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* 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.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.

40 Comments

  1. Bill
    October 29, 2012

    Stay safe Isaiah and everyone else in the east coast…and I hope you know how to swim!

    The waves are pounding the lake shore here in Chicago even though we are far from ground zero, so I can imagine how much worse it is for you guys in the east coast.

  2. October 30, 2012

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. And with so much heat in the Big Two rivalry now, the Copa has even MORE import.

    Imagine if we got to the semis, and Vilanova came out with the kids/vets lineup against RM. People would be losing their minds. I would be applauding.

    • Messiah10
      October 30, 2012

      Agreed. I would love to see Barta and Fontas start every Copa match. Pep started Pinto for every Copa match. It was HIS tourney no matter what the stakes. I feel the same attitude should be held for the players who aren’t a part of our regular starting 11. That said, I still value the Copa and I was extremely proud when we lifted it last year! A trophy is a trophy to me. Of course, the big 2 have more prestige to offer, but the history and meaning of the Copa is wonderful. The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open tourney is a trophy I wish more MLS teams took seriously. It’s the States oldest continuous tourney we have for football. Starting in 1913-14 as the National Challenge Cup, it was a knock-out tourney. I love history!

      • Messiah10
        October 30, 2012

        Obviously Fontas wouldn’t start anymore! lol. I meant Montoya! I’ll throw JDS in there as well since he gave a good showing of himself last game.

  3. Jafri
    October 30, 2012

    Messi: 11 possible games to play, 13 goals to beat Gerd Muller’s record of 85 goals in a calendar year…

    • Messiah10
      October 30, 2012

      For most mortals that would be a tough scenario, however, with our Messiah, anything is possible! Thanks for posting the stat because I was to lazy to look it up! I haven’t heard to many t.v. pundits making a big deal about it? It’s one of, if not the biggest records in football. Conspiracy?

    • Richzorz
      October 30, 2012

      Yet Messi claims not to care too much about individual records and that team success is more important, whilst being left out of the squad for the “could probably score 13 goals if he wanted” Copa match… Not too bad considering from everything I’ve read/heard Muller generally liked to hang around the opposition 6-yard box for the full 90 minutes each game! 😛

      • Messiah10
        October 30, 2012

        I didn’t even think about that Richzorz. Good point. I suspect it’s crossed Tito’s mind and probably even Messi’s, however, even immortals need rest! He didn’t get rest when he came back from the international break and he probably needed it then, so I’m not to sad he’s resting even though I’d love for him to break the record.

      • October 30, 2012

        Also, Messi’s kid is expected to be born any second now. One assumes he would prefer to stay in Barcelona if possible. Don’t think he will mind missing this game much.

  4. nzm
    October 30, 2012

    There’s a reason why more Barca babies aren’t playing in this match and I’ll reveal why in a new post to be published in a couple of hours time. 🙂

    • October 30, 2012

      #pinsandneedles
      #pinsandneedles
      #pinsandneedles
      #pinsandneedles

    • James08771
      October 30, 2012

      nzm,

      Could it have something to do with the Barça B match tomorrow? I have to admit, I pretty much expected this line-up, except that I had figured Carles Planas would’ve been called up as a result of Jordi Alba and Adriano having to play every match. I’m glad that least Jordi will get some rest, among others.

      Thanks

      • nzm
        October 30, 2012

        Yes James! But do you know why they’re playing tomorrow? All is now revealed. 🙂

    • Blau-Grenade
      October 30, 2012

      Patiently waiting for your post 🙂

    • October 30, 2012

      Can’t watch this now since I’m at work, but for the record, I don’t approve of machine-gun celebrations by any player at any time, including by Abidal. And yes, I’m pretty certain that Deulofeu’s celebration wasn’t any kind of tribute to anyone but himself.

  5. mom4
    October 30, 2012

    Reporting in from the Maryland/DC area. We’re fine and still have power so I get to find a crappy stream and watch the babies play today. Many of my friends have lost power, though (our development’s power lines are underground so we rarely lose power). We still have about a day of wind and rain left but not as bad as yesterday.

    @ Isaiah- didja know about the hurriane drinking game, Hunker Down? (as described here courtesy of Urban Dictionary):

    Hunker Down game is a game played at hurricane parties. You watch the weather report and everytime the weatherman or news guy says “hunker down” you take a shot. By the time the electricity is out, you don’t even care any more.

    • nzm
      October 30, 2012

      Ooh – we could play this while watching football games on Spanish TV.

      Each time they say “disparo” or “vamos a ver”, we could take a shot. Then it wouldn’t matter how Barca was playing!

      Prepare yourselves for January – we might just play this while you’re here! 😆

  6. October 30, 2012

    I’ve always like the CDR for the opportunity to see some teams that I otherwise wouldn’t, and for the potential upsets. Who can forget Mirandes’ great run last year? And of course the Alcocornazo! As for Alaves, they may be in the Segunda B now, but they have been in the Primera in the past, and (according to Wikipedia) have even beaten FC Barcelona before! So it could happen to us, too.

    Except it won’t. Or shouldn’t. They have a nice grass pitch (not like l’Hosptalet’s astroturf last year) in a pretty big stadium for a Segunda B club (almost 20,000 capacity), but the pitch will be a little narrower than the Camp Nou.

    My lineup:

    Pinto
    Montoya Song Bartra Adriano
    Sergi Roberto JDS Iniesta
    Sanchez Villa Tello

    Masche and Fabregas can come in and tidy things up if needed, but otherwise they should rest.

    • nzm
      October 30, 2012

      If Mirandes was playing Bilbao this year, I bet that they would win. 😐

      Bilbao is in such a slump right now.

  7. replayed
    October 30, 2012

    I can see the merits of starting the youngsters in first legs, and bringing in the big guns for second legs when the outcome of the round is still in doubt after the first leg.

    If nothing else, it maximizes the number of first legs which the youngsters get opportunities to play in. It also maximizes the number of smaller teams that get to reap the gates from Barcelona at home and experience a match at the Camp Nou. And the silverware is nice too.

    I suppose the cost is the reduced exposure the youngsters get to high-pressure ties. But then if the team is starting the young’uns in those knockout matches in the first place, how much importance does it appear to be placing on those outcomes?

  8. October 30, 2012

    Tito: “I’m going to approach this Cup tie with the most competitive team possible to get a good result. I don’t see this as an opportunity to give players that haven’t had a lot of playing time more minutes on pitch. ”

    Looks like JDS might not get to seize the day after all. 😉

  9. Josep
    October 30, 2012

    I hand the first leg of the early rounds to lower sides to mostly young teams, with some mixture of needing minutes players.

    And subsequent rounds drawn with La Liga teams get serious consideration, for the second leg. That’s just me, and I think if our team were in a trophy drought you lot might have a different opinion on taking the trophy seriously.

    • Messiah10
      October 30, 2012

      Arsene Wenger received a lot of flack from a club supporters group at the Arsenal annual meeting. He said he valued qualifying for the CL every season over the FA Cup and Cup formerly known as the Carling Cup. Ask their fans if they’d prefer a trophy instead of nothing guaranteed. You’ll get an answer similar to your last sentence.

      • Josep
        October 30, 2012

        Oh, okay. I didn’t know the EPL and its table had bearing on La Liga’s duopoly.

  10. barca96
    October 30, 2012

    Who from this community is from the Eastcoast?

    • hansh
      October 30, 2012

      I am – northern Massachusetts. We did fine with the hurricane, didn’t even lose power (which is a miracle, because generally if anyone in the area is going to lose power, it will be us).

      I have family in Baltimore (who didn’t lose power) and NYC/New Jersey (who did). None of us have damage to our homes, thank God.

      • barca96
        October 30, 2012

        Thank God you and your family are safe. Anyone else. Please report here and tell us how you are all doing.

    • sebanovic
      October 30, 2012

      We are in Baltimore; everything is fine and didn’t even lose power!

    • Ryan
      October 30, 2012

      Living in DC, but thankfully only lost internet!

      • barca96
        October 30, 2012

        I’ve never seen you around Sebanovic. Good to see you coming out.

        I’m glad everyone is okay so far but I’m pretty sure there are many more from this community that are on the East side. Hopefully everything is okay.

  11. barca96
    October 30, 2012

    I actually prefer playing the first match with as many kids as possible. If they mess up, there is always a 2nd match. But no matter what, I always preferred for the kids or players out of form to play in a home match rather than away as they get more support in a home match. It will do wonders to their confidence.

  12. barca96
    October 30, 2012

    @nzm

    This is an area of Busi’s play in which he needs to develop. He likes to play safe which isn’t a bad thing, but at times he needs to be looking for that faster, killer pass to the forwards for the goal. He’s more than capable of doing it, as he’s demonstrated a couple of times already.

    This season he has passed the ball more vertically more than ever. I don’t know whether it is Tito’s order or not but it is good! He is more than average passer (vertical).

    @Messiah10

    He did it because there’s a power struggle between he and Mou right now. He did it to spite Ronaldo and Mou. There’s a huge division between the Portuguese and Spaniards at EE. Iker has been getting a lot of abuse from the pro-Mourinho press the last couple of months. Iker making this choice public is him telling Mou to “stick it!”.

    But even if he has beef with Mourinho, why would Iker vote for someone who has no chance at all?! Why hurt Ronaldo? And on the other side, Iniesta.

    What did the pro-Mourinho press say about Casillas? The English press must’ve missed it.

    • nzm
      October 30, 2012

      Yes – noticed. One of my predictions for this season would be that Busquets would become more direct. He’s still pussying around too much for my liking, but he is a WIP. 🙂

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