Just as the green and white stripes of Betis were fading in front of our eyes, it’s time to face the green and white of Córdoba. In fact, Barça faces a slew of striped strips for seven successive sorties until the middle of January.
With the Córdoba – Atlético – Valldolid – Espanyol – Córdoba – Málaga – Real Sociedad games to be played, the Blaugrana will be seeing stripes for some weeks to come.
Córdoba has a reputation for giving Primera League teams a hard time in Copa del Rey encounters. Last season in January’s Round of 16, they almost dispatched Espanyol winning at home 2-1 before losing 4-2 at Cornellà-El Prat. Just one more goal would have done it.
This Copa del Rey for Córdoba
Coming into the competion in Round 2, Córdoba defeated Elche 1-0 in extra time before doing the same to Sabadell in Round 3.
Their Round of 32 games were against Primera club Real Sociedad, and Los Califas knocked Sociedad out of the competition winning 2-0 at home and drawing 2-2 in San Sebastian.
Las Palmas (beat Rayo Vallecano) and Córdoba are the remaining Segunda División clubs left in the competition, other than Segunda B club Eibar that is playing the postponed second leg of the last round’s matches against Bilbao tonight. The clubs drew 0-0 in the first game, so it will be a tense affair to see if Athletic can at least stay up in this competition after bombing out of the Europa League, or whether Eibar will be the giant-killing Segunda B representative.
A Mutual Famous Coach
In 1999 during Barça’s centennial celebrations, fans voted Hungarian exile László Kubala Stecz as the greatest player ever to play for the club. A commemorative statue to him stands in the grounds of Camp Nou between the stadium and the shop.
Kubala played for quite a few clubs in his time, but as a coach he managed many more, including stints at FC Barcelona with both the B and First Teams.
He also managed Córdoba for a season (1968/69) before taking over as the Spanish National coach for a lengthy 11 year tenure.
If you’ve never seen the man in action, check out old rubber legs himself, playing at Barça’s Camp de Les Corts in the pre-Camp Nou days:
A product of Córdoba’s youth system, Rafael Berges Martín was also a Spanish International around the time of the 1992 Olympics held in Barcelona. He was a first choice member of the squad and scored twice during the tournament – the most noteworthy goal in the 2-0 semi-final win against Ghana.
After coaching some obscure Spanish clubs, Berges returned to coach Córdoba’s B Team, but at the beginning of the season he was named as the First Team coach to replace Paco who went to Rayo Vallecano. And I’ve used “coach” too many times in this paragraph, but no one’s going to read it anyway.
Within the Blanquiverdes ranks lies one former Barcelona youth. First choice Goal-keeper, Alberto Garcia, had a 2 season La Masia stay beginning when he was 16 (2001-03). However, we’re likely to see second choice GK Mikel Saizar who has the CdR duties, unless Berges decides that the occasion merits putting out their #1.
18 year old youth player, Fede Vico, may be one to watch in the mid-field. Vico is also a member of Spain’s U20 squad.
If they play, big 21yo French import, John-Christophe Ayina, could prove to be a powerful force up the front, especially if he’s paired with Joselu who is on loan from Villarreal.
Javier Patiño is the forward who has had most of the CdR game-time. Born in Madrid, the half-filipino is looking to gain Philippines citizenship so that he can play internationally for the country.
On-loan from Lorient, Argentine Forward Sebastián Dubarbier could also provide some fireworks.
How’s Córdoba doing?
In Second Division, the team’s last win was on 11/11 when they played an away game vs. Ponferradina and won 3-5. Since then they’ve recorded 2 losses and 2 draws. Let’s hope that they don’t decide that their next win should be on 12/12.
The team currently sits in 11th position with 4 points less than Barça B who are in 6th, although Córdoba did beat Barcelona B (2-1 at home) when they played in October.
When looking at the team’s Copa del Rey stats, not many of the forwards (apart from Patiño and Dubarbier) have had much playing time with the coach preferring to use his mid-fielders. There also appears to be no main goal scorer within the team for the Copa del Rey matches, with several players sharing the spoils on 1 goal each which could indicate that the whole team is dangerous in front of the goal.
In La Liga, Italian Forward Vincenzo Rennella (on loan from Genoa) is the leading scorer with 5 goals but, again, the rest of the goals are shared among the mid-fielders who appear to be the driving force within the team. Hmmm…that sounds familiar!
Córdoba’s last season in the Primera Liga was 40 years ago, but there is no doubt that they will rise to the occasion of hosting FC Barcelona in their stadium and give it all that they’ve got.
The home team is without Defender Cristian Ramos through suspension, while Captain Gaspar Gálvez and fellow Defender José Fernández are both one card away from being missing the next match. Sounds like the back-line might be filled with a whole lot of tough guys.
The Estadio Nuevo Arcángel was built in 1993 and was not a hit with the fans. It had a running track around the perimeter of the pitch which isolated the fans and the players from each other. Nice in some respects, but not good when fan engagement is paramount.
In 2007 a revamp saw the running track removed, with stands built over it on the goal ends. The pitch was also moved closer to the main stand and the stadium became a dedicated football arena.
Plans to replace the West Stand have been shelved. This would have increased the seating capacity to 25,000, but the stadium can currently hold just over 18,000 spectators and should be jam-packed for this game which will be the highlight of the season.
Don’t expect much from the pitch, unless the club has risen to the occasion and laid new turf, but I doubt that.
The Barça Boys
Tito has rested Iniesta, preferring that he’s fit and at 100% for the weekend’s match vs. Atlético de Madrid. Valdés and Adriano will also not travel.
The squad is: Pinto, Oier, Alves, Montoya, Piqué, Bartra, Puyol, Mascherano, Alba, Xavi, Thiago, Dos Santos, Busquets, Song, Pedro, Alexis, Messi, Villa and Tello.
Piqué, Xavi, Messi, Pedro and Alba have yet to play in the CdR this season.
My favoured line-up would be something like this:
Pinto, Alves, Piqué, Masch, Alba, Thiago, Busquets, Song, Alexis, Villa and Tello.
Yes, I want to see Ye Olde Double Pivot.
All going well, subs would be Bartra for Piqué, Dos Santos for Busquets and Pedro for Alexis/Villa. All not going well, Puyol, Xavi and Messi may get some game time.
The game starts tonight at an early (for Spain) 8:00pm CET.
Click here to convert the match time to your timezone: Córdoba CF vs. FC Barcelona
Just in case you haven’t yet seen it, here are Kobe and Messi with a cute tyke in an ad for Turkish Airlines: